(Re) Presenting 2020 | ‘People Who Make Things And Think About Stuff’ | Interview with artist Jeremy Staples | a repost courtesy Natasha Wills @ natashaleewills
I’m hoping to make a third edition of my ongoing zine series ‘People Who Make Things And Think About Stuff’. Its a very simple idea and just a bit of fun really. You came to mind and i was wondering if you’d like to play? In the past i’ve asked people i know, love and/or admire, to help me make it by answering a few questions and contributing a photo of themselves in their creative space, their work or whatever they like. I will be putting it together and printing it myself, so it will not be a slick fancy product, more DIY photocopy with some hand painted colour bits. You’ll get a couple of copies to do whatever the hell you like with. You get the picture. Below are some questions, you can choose to answer all or as few as you like, i know not everyone has the time for this kind of shenanigans, but if you do, i’d love to hear from you.
What is creativity to you?
An outlet, platform for self-expression. Creativity isn’t necessarily found in a gallery setting. I love those regional folks that weld up elaborate mailboxes into Ned Kelly, replicas of their homes or repurpose old machinery into a creation that accepts mail…. These folks would most likely not call themselves creative, I’d argue that!
What lead you to creative work?
I realised early on that I was a round peg being forced into a square hole. I nearly dropped out of school at grade 10, really glad that I didn’t. I started a traineeship at a screen-printing shop, learning the trade that covered all the elements from design to the printing process. I attended school three days a week, print shop the other two.
I’ve never felt the urge to be part of the rat race. I felt the need to contribute back to the wider community via creativity and connection.
Do you feel artists are undervalued in our society?
Arts in general is undervalued. I feel the vast majority of the population doesn’t grasp or understand art. That said I don’t either but I connect with it. Art is everywhere, it’s not just found in the gallery. Little do most people realise, without art, we wouldn’t have music, film, books, architecture, clothing…. the list goes on. Earth would be a very boring place to reside without art! I’ve joked about starting a national No Art Week. I’d wear an unbranded potato sack and stare at a blankly at the wall for a week. So yes, artists are extremely undervalued and artist’s everyday have to prove their worth to society.
Where do you reside and does your environment affect your work?
My main residence is on Canaipa Island aka Russell Island. It’s located on Quandamooka country, tucked behind Minjerribah (North Straddie) and part of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands. Even though it’s only a twenty minute ferry journey to the mainland, the islands have that great country town vibe. The islands are located halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, by no means isolated but they provide the perfect space to be creative. Plus the islands have an amazing and creative community. You jump on the ferry and the noise of city living is a distant memory. My home is surrounded by nature reserve, the wildlife here is spectacular and my Banksia just started flowering. Without a doubt, my environment has a huge impact on my work. It provides freedom and stable platform to produce and create.
What is influencing your work at the moment?
I’m currently building a shipping container home. As someone who failed wood/metal work at school, it’s a serious learning curve. I’ve been spending a lot of time processing, stepping back and reflecting but most importantly asking for help and support. The importance of mentors has been highlighted.
Why is imagination and creativity important to you and where does this impulse come from?
Imagination and creativity shapes individuality and at the end of the day is what makes us human. Though society does try it’s hardest to shape us into a mould, ready to join the 9-5 worker drone army.
What or where is home for you?
I travel a fair amount with my creative work and for leisure, so I think about what is home a reasonable amount. Home can be a friendly face, place of comfort or familiarity. Home, when I’m holiday cycling is my bicycle. It has everything I need for months and is an amazing machine that takes me anywhere I want. I just need to put in the energy. I find cycling the perfect home away from home. It doesn’t need to be a trip that goes for weeks, even an overnight trip is the perfect reboot.
Why do you do what you do?
Create change, have a sense of purpose and inspire others to follow their dreams.
How does your work bring meaning into your life?
I love sharing, connecting and inspiring others. I love helping others to follow their creative journey. My work for the past few years has been more focused on creating platforms for others to showcase their work. From festivals, exhibitions and skill share workshops.
Do you have any daily rituals that help things flow?
I’ve joined a book club on the islands, waking up and reading for an hour has been a great way to start the day. Checking the news from selected sites and a decent breakfast. Then getting changed like you were going to a traditional job, I find set my mind in motion. Also reviewing goals and tasks achieved each day. Larger projects can feel extremely overwhelming, I celebrate the little goals each day.
Are there any artists in particular that inspire you?
So many artists have inspired me but a few that I love are; Philip Dearest, an outsider artists that never stops creating. I know firsthand, we stayed in a squat in Melbourne during the Festival of the Photocopier a few years back. I woke up before day break, I spotted a silhouette at the end of the dirty mattress sitting up and drawing on his now renowned hand drawn t-shirts. He uses his art to discuss and share his own mental health but produces collective work on a regular basis. His work isn’t for everyone but love that he’s creating work that opens up the discussion on topics that would otherwise be pushed aside.
I love stop motion animation, and adore all of Adam Elliot’s work. I speak of him pretty regularly, Elliot created Harvie Krumpet and Mary and Max. When Elliot won Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2004 for Harvie Krumpet. He won this award while living at his mother’s home and on the dole. Winning the highest accolade in filmmaking while society generally casts a shadow on people who receive welfare.
Is suffering a necessary part of the human condition?
You can’t have joy without suffering, the trick is finding the happy middle ground. I’ve spoken with numerous artists over the years who have won awards, received grants and alike. While time passes and things go back to normal, they can find themselves in a dark place as the high/success was such a buzz fades. Trying to keep a level head, celebrate your success but realise it’s a passing moment are my thoughts.
In general terms, is hierarchy necessary? If so, why?
I don’t think it’s necessary and a lot of time it may actually be more of a figment of our own imagination. We do live in a world where it’s more about who you know, than what you know. In the age of the internet, there aren’t too many people you can’t reach out to. Why not get in touch, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If you don’t like the current hierarchy, go make your own.
Do you believe the personal is political?
Everything is political, it may not feel that way at times. Operating in this landscape may feel disempowering at times but change can and does happen from both sides. No point complaining, be the change!
Do you believe struggle and restriction enhances the creative process?
Without some form of oppression, art would be boring. I believe it’s needed and can be an amazing form of inspiration.
Where is the line between art and not art?
The big line for me would be work that has been solely created for financial gain. Sure there are expectations to that. Work that has no soul and at the core has been produced to sell something, blurs the line of art. That said, some marketing/design can be spectacular.
Is free will real or just an illusion?
At the end of the day, we’re in charge of our own destiny. During your journey, you’ll come across forks in the road that may all end up at the same point. But at the end of the day, it’s important you to be true to yourself. Who wants regrets on your death bed!
Do you have a personal mantra or motto that guides you in this crazy world?
Just do it, don’t let the fear of failure or money get in your way!