More Interviews From Isolation Four Artists – Oliver Malin




Whilst I will refrain from touting out the current word de jour again, the new normal, it’s hard not to feel the paradigm shift between our feet. I don’t know if I am wearing ice skates or roller blades if you know what I mean. Thankfully in this parish & in the literal meaning of that comes a recent piece scribed by the Revd Jonathan Evens

It’s a triumphant rally to highlight the fundamental role of the artist as someone who notices things, a job observing things that others don’t, (to paraphrase). 

With this thought for the day in mind, I respectfully summon you to the next batch of light interrogations with four artists, who are all being asked to observe & consider more than ever. We begin with Benjamin Murphy, A powerhouse from West Riding, who is the undisputed king of electrical tape-based graphic expressionism. Parking up next to him is Jesse Makinson, a wildly vibrant colourist who delivers the viewer through magical lands that feel like a wonderful opium trip through the subconscious; Freud would feast on her imagery for a lifetime. From this explosion of esotericism & colour, we are parachuted into the domain of preservation which balances the macabre and beautiful with scientific precision, which is occupied by Polly Morgan. Last but not least, is the enfant terrible & painter extraordinaire, Mc LLamas, who owns the biggest gallic smile in London & is responsible for helping engage artists with this questionnaire survey & hopefully will continue to do so.

Benjamin Murphy

Benjamin Murphy

Benjamin Murphy

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively

Three of my exhibitions in LA, Sydney, and La Spezia, have been rescheduled, and one (possibly two) I’m curating too. It’s annoying, but luckily they rescheduled and didn’t cancel, so I’m very grateful for that small mercy.

I do a podcast with Nick JS Thompson that we release every two weeks with a different guest, but as we haven’t been able to get anyone over, we’ve done two Corona specials in which we interview each other in turn. It was pretty chaotic, but the genesis of the idea was borne out of a chaotic situation, so I think it’s stronger for it. Check out the Delphian Podcast if you’re interested in having a listen.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive

I’m always pretty positive, so Corona hasn’t had much of an effect on me in that sense. It’s incredibly frustrating to have your life derailed like this, but there’s nothing to be gained by getting all stressed about something you can’t control. So, for now, I’m just rolling with the punches and waiting to see what happens.

As artists, we are fortunate to be able to keep working throughout this, whereas people from many other professions cannot. Yes, it has its own downfalls, but it would be remiss of me to act as I have it much harder than everyone else, for some people are at the risk of losing everything because of this.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

I have a lot of editing to do for the forthcoming Delphian book, so this pandemic has afforded me a lot of time in which I cannot avoid doing that. I have thought of getting into calisthenics or something like that whilst I’m isolated, but who knows whether I’ll keep that up. I am isolating in Yorkshire with the family and so won’t have access to my London studio, so I plan to make a lot of charcoal works on paper, and read a lot of books.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Keep working throughout all of this madness. It’s not an excuse to abandon your practice for however many weeks or months. Use the time wisely, and if the isolation means that you can’t work in the same way you always do, then you must adapt.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off

Frank Carter’s back catalogue. Sol Invictus from Faith No More, and the new Ozzy album.

Jessie Makinson

Jessie Makinson Listen Sweetie, 2019

Jessie Makinson

 How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively

Well, I was due to open my first solo show in New York with Lyles and King on the 27th March. This is obviously not possible and will now be viewable online only. I was also to be included in a group show at Victoria Miro called ‘I see you’ opening 31st March this is now postponed. It was obviously sad at first having spent months getting the work together but there are bigger problems than these right now. So I’m mainly concerned that my friends and family are safe and that people are supported financially through the crisis by the government and that the NHS staff have the PPE equipment they need to be safe. I am now working from home which is not the easiest. I’ve only been here since last Friday as I was finishing up the Miro painting and trying to transfer stuff home – very difficult without a car, and not wanting to get in a taxi. So I am likely making smaller works for now.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive 

I think each day is different. It can all feel very oppressive and impossible to paint and then it can feel like painting is the only thing that can keep me sane. I am very lucky to be able to work from home, although I am trying to have some perspective and help where I can.

 With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

 I’ve had no free time as yet as I can still work. And in fact, the difficulties of working from home seem to take up time. A lot of people I speak to don’t seem to know where all the time goes. 

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Get some materials at home as soon as possible before the art shops stop delivering. 

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off

only been listening to audiobooks as they are more distracting. Recently Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, Orlando by Virginia Woolfe, Dune by Frank Herbert.

Polly Morgan

Polly Morgan image courtesy the artist

Polly Morgan 

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

It has reduced my working hours significantly (with two kids at home), so I am very focused during those I have. I haven’t been wasting a second. I am continuing with work for a show in October. Whether or not this will now go ahead, I don’t know, but it’s essential for me to keep working or I will get unhappy.

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

I feel good. It has made me appreciate how lucky I am. I have a studio at home in the basement; many artists are unable to get to their studios, which must be frustrating. However, I don’t doubt they are still working in some new capacity as artists are by nature creative thinkers. I am healthy. I am finding new ways to entertain my kids, we are being more imaginative with our cooking, and have found nooks and crannies of the house we didn’t know existed, such is our desperation to keep the children entertained!

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I have less time for myself with the kids at home, so there is definitely no scope to learn a language or read. However, it has made me so much more imaginative and creative with the children. We are building, baking, singing, dancing and I’m using my studio materials to teach them, which has been a pleasure.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Adapt. Although I expect most have already. My studio-mate, who can no longer come in, has gone from making sculptures to making digital art at home. I call it his ‘home residency’. I think some exciting projects will be realised during this time.

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

I am actually working in silence most of the time. I usually listen to the radio, but I realised the 24/7 newsfeed was going to make me anxious and distracted and I didn’t think that was healthy. I love the sound of a quiet London. It’s not something I expect to hear again soon. 

MC Llamas 

MC Llamas

MC Llamas 

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive 

I think each day is different. It can all feel very oppressive and impossible to paint and then it can feel like painting is the only thing that can keep me sane. I am very lucky to be able to work from home, although I am trying to have some perspective and help where I can.

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new

 I’ve had no free time as yet as I can still work. And in fact, the difficulties of working from home seem to take up time. A lot of people I speak to don’t seem to know where all the time goes. 

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

Get some materials at home as soon as possible before the art shops stop delivering. 

 What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off

 I’ve only been listening to audiobooks as they are more distracting. Recently Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, Orlando by Virginia Woolfe, Dune by Frank Herbert.

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively 

To be honest, it has been difficult, with all of this going on, it’s been hard to clear my head. At the moment I find it easier to paint at night when things have slowed down. It’s been nice to have this time to make more experimental work, without the stress of working towards a show, it’s been more of an introspective time. 

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