Jack Fawdry-Tatham was awarded the Jackson’s Visitors’ Choice Award for his etching Beneath a Scar. His dark, tonal work combines observational drawing and traditional etching with an exploration of the kinship between humans and nature. Fawdry-Tatham is an emerging artist who is going from strength to strength and has been selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018, we talked to him to find out more about his practice.
Tegen: Having studied Sculpture at Camberwell and then done The Drawing Year with the Royal Drawing School, could you describe your practice and how these institutions affected it?
Jack: My practice at the moment is centred around printmaking, I make works that are inspired by the natural world. Having studied at two very different art schools I feel I have gained a broad view of different ways to make art. During my 4 years at Camberwell I learnt many practical skills from a wonderful range of technicians such as model-making, casting, wood and metal work. Alongside this I gained an understanding of critical thinking. Then the drawing school played a key role in shaping my practice at the moment, it’s a year and a half of observational drawing taught by a huge range of artists. It helped me to improve my drawing but also gave me the confidence and belief that drawing and making images is just as valid as having a good concept.
Tegen: How does drawing fit in to your practice and your process?
Jack: Drawing is at the core of my work and maybe my life. I try and draw every day, not just because I love it but because I find it incredibly difficult. I find that it helps me be very present in the world even when things challenge you. With such basic and cheap means one can create magic. My sketchbook is very important to me, it contains ideas for future prints, but also is a visual diary of my life. I use it to document travels, pass time when bored, and store images of the crazy world around us. I see life like a pot of boiling water with pasta and my sketchbook is like a colander helping to catch the hot pasta!
Tegen: Do you approach making a piece in a particular way and what goes in to printing one? Do you start with an idea or an image and do you make preparatory sketches or studies?
Jack: I tend to have an idea that just comes out of nowhere, normally when I’m cycling. It is as if my constant observations and inquisitiveness of the world around me suddenly form in to something I can make work of. In that moment I sketch it all down to remember the idea. Then, I do some more drawings the same size as the copper plate I will be using for printing. Once I’m happy with it I start drawing it on to the actual copper plate.
Tegen: There’s a real sense of narrative and mythology in your pieces, where do you find inspiration for them and do you construct a story around each piece?
Jack: I find inspiration from looking at lots of books of artist I like, going to galleries and museums, conversations and news stories. I don’t know what the word is called but when you start becoming aware of some thing you see it every where. I find this with my work; the more I make, even from seemingly peripheral ideas, the more I find more substantial ideas spring out at me. I also find that humans are so keen to make new narratives and I am happy for people to construct their own stories, even if mine is a bit different.
Tegen: In many of the pieces humans and animals are intertwined in intimate, visceral and sometimes almost violent ways, what are trying to say with this and what made you interested in this relationship?
Jack: Humans have been drawing animals for a long time, early humans drawing animals in a cave is probably one thing that distinguished us from other animals, we became observers and documenters. I find comfort in this primitive desire to draw animals, for me it helps me to try and connect and understand them. I’m also interested in how this relationship changes throughout the world and within different histories. I pine for contact and a connection to the natural world, so I use my drawings as a way to fill that void. Academic science, Christianity and industrialised farming have all played a role in demystifying and dissolving the kinship between humans and nature. In my work I try to rekindle this precious connection.
Tegen: You work in a variety of mediums including watercolour, etching and lino printing, do you have a favourite currently and if so why?
Jack: I love the etching process, for one it’s a good way to turn a drawing into a more solid, fully-realised piece of art. You can also reproduce prints and so this makes them easier to sell at a cheaper price. I like how the image drifts in and out of existence throughout the process of etching; from person to paper to plate to print. Along this process the image evolves as mistakes, accidents and new ideas occur taking the image in new directions.
Tegen: Your etchings are stunning and use tone beautifully, however, I’ve also seen some of your lino prints which are very colourful; is there something that appeals to you about monochrome and do you work differently when working on a piece that uses colour?
Jack: I have a funny relationship with colour, I love its use by other artists but I find it such a vast other language. I’m friends with and work for an artist called John Mclean who is one of the world’s most exciting artists, renowned for his beautiful use of colour. I find it very daunting to use it myself but I’m slowly building up the confidence to use it more in my work.
Tegen: Last month you had a solo show The Shrewdness of Apes, could you tell us about what work you chose for the show, why you chose it and about the exhibition in general?
Jack: The group name for apes is ‘a Shrewdness’ and the exhibition’s title is a play on this. It simultaneously refers to the group of apes in the picture but also comments on how it is the shrewdness of humans that allowed us to evolve, hence the man at the centre of the print. The exhibition took place at Camberwell Student Led Gallery and it was very nice to feel supported by the art school as an alumni.
Tegen: Where and how do you work best?
Jack: I’m very fortunate to have a studio under Pollocks Toy Museum in central London, I’m most happy working here with the radio on, full of tea and biscuits.
Tegen: Since you won the Jackson’s Visitors’ Choice Award at The National Original Print Exhibition 2018, where do you see contemporary printmaking going and how do you see your work fitting in to it?
Jack: I find it hard to see were contemporary printmaking is going, as I feel quite out of touch with the contemporary art world. I do try to see as much art as possible but I rarely see things that engage me. Printmaking is a funny business as it’s not really represented much within big arts institutions, you rarely see etchings curated with the same importance as paintings.
It’s a funny thing as there are lots of very famous painters who in my mind are better printmakers but their paintings always dominate; Picasso and Rego spring to mind.
Tegen: Is there a project or a piece of work currently that you’re particularly excited about?
Jack: At the moment I’m making a toy theatre, with a new design, it is a very old tradition and in keeping with the heritage of Pollocks Toy Museum above my studio.
Tegen: You’ve been selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries, how do you feel about it and where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Jack: I am over the moon to have been selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries. This is the first year they have allowed unaccredited art courses to apply, so it was open to the Royal Drawing School, Turps and The School of the Dammed. I was surprised to be selected as I feel it’s funny to have the word ‘contemporary’ next to my work, as to me my pictures look old. I’m also very chuffed to have etchings selected as this is an old traditional way of making art, so it’s good to know it still has a place in the future…
The Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2018 show will be on display at South London gallery from 05 December 2018 to 24 February 2019. The show is free and offers a wonderful selection of art from students from all over the country.
The top image is Beneath a Scar 1:25, Jack Fawdry-Tatham, etching with aquatint 40x60cm (Winner of the Jackson’s Visitors’ Choice Award at the National Original Print Exhibition 2018