Public Library


Public Library


Interview with Johannesburg artist Joe Turpin

Production / Direction

Is there anything about your work that you would consider to be poetic?

There is. I think a work can have a poetic nature when it presents itself in a light of story or description. I feel that emotions, and understandings hide beneath my work, and only certain people feel or see them. Certain experiences I have gone through, felt, and then speak about in my work. But they are always there. Not visible to everybody… this is poetic to me.

Do you feel that the artist needs to find a certain space for themselves, and there work? Or are they kind of nomadic?

Yes certainly, but that does not mean the artist needs to leave where they are uncomfortable or misunderstood. There is a saying that no man can be a prophet in his own country. I think it is true, but what can be learned where the artist does become accepted, should be brought back. It is good not be stagnant, especially if my work would be misunderstood, problematized or critiqued (unfairly, that is). It is good to wander. Wander and come home with the gatherings.

Do you feel that changes, or breaks, in your work are good or bad?

It depends on the reasoning for such changes. For me it has been very good, and healthy, so far. My work has moved into a less expressive and more conceptual realm. Some artists change – or remain the same and cannot change even if they wanted to – for galleries, collectors or audiences you know. You can become stuck or leave behind a good thing completely to become something you are not. Fortunately I am still in an emerging space just after art school where I can constantly experiment and form my own language – which I thought I had, but I didn’t! My passion remains painting however. Like a musician running into the burning bar he was performing in to save his favourite guitar – that is I and the medium of painting.

What aspects do you draw from, from the work of other artists that you look at or study?

I tend to try and appreciate at first the message the artist is conveying. The narrative of the work… if I find that interesting and think “oh, this has become an artwork made about that moment or situation” then it makes me believe I can talk about other things… make artworks about things that I otherwise might have not considered. I think the way they convey that intention or message is the second thing, and this is where I decide if I like a work or not. Because it may be successful in it’s intention but that doesn’t mean I think the work is good! I also love the moment I view a work – the first striking colours or forms. I try to think about the viewer then seeing my work for the first time, what ecstasy it can give off!

What advice would you give to young, emerging painters?

This is interesting because I’ve been asked this about young artists in general but not painters. Well… A mentor told me that it is being a painter that saved me. I would urge young painters to ask themselves what the medium owes them, and what they owe the medium!