100 PICTURES | 100 STORIES // Jodee Knowles

Create or Die-Write-DebMorgan-Portrait photographer-Chrissie Hall

How would you describe your art practice?
It’s emotional content and primarily self-portrait based, working with the human condition; experiences in my life and within my friendship groups and then I respond to that in my characters. I guess having really strong stylised works as I do, you have to have pretty strong concepts behind that to keep it moving forward. Otherwise it becomes repetitive. A lot of people don’t realise that, they think they’re just these dark scary little girls. But I put a lot of effort into the research and concepts behind what I do.

Even within the pattern work, I research a lot of concepts. One of the collections was based on time and trying to be independent of time – making a motif that suited that. So I did lot’s of different timelines and markings and created a pattern based on that.

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When you say you’re inspired from situations from your friends, is that to do with things they are going through?

Yeah, so a lot of people think my work is really dark, but I also bring to life quirky situations or things my friends have said about their own experiences, their struggles but also just being out at a party and having a D&M about a concept or some hilarious situation that evolves into me taking a lot of weird notes in my phone. The next day I look through the notes and sometimes think “what the hell does that mean!?”

The collection I’m working on at the moment, is playing with the idea of having the works incomplete – representing life and death and limbo.

I’ve been looking at a lot of Greek Mythology – and putting different animals and characters into the works. I went to one of the Museums in Berlin recently and they had an exhibition on Greek art and history. It was so interesting to see, there’s so much substance and beauty in it. I wanted to play around with what we would leave behind in this modern day and society.

So I’ve been speaking with people and making lists of that – there’s a lot of football that people bring up and drinking culture is massive. So I want to make a lot of busts and sculptures and I think a lot of them are going to have missing teeth and mullets at this point. Hahaha!!! 100 years from now, people will be thinking “what the hell! Is this what was going on!!?”

How did you first start art-ing and why?

It’s an interesting story actually, I generally did art based on love or revenge. And I had a partner at the time who was quite a famous artist who basically told me that I wouldn’t make it as an artist when we broke up. That gave me this awesome energy and passion to say “fuck you! I am totally gonna do this!” So it kinda started like that and obviously I was studying Fine Art at the time, but it really pushed me into this headspace which has always remained. So I get a lot of energy from people doubting me or seeing the things I wanna do, feeling like they are out of my league and then going “No! This is possible!” and building the stepping stones to get there.

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That’s a little like Julia Cameron in the Artists Way – she talks about “The Monsters Hall of Fame.”
Yeah, I think that sometimes things happen in life and you might not really consider it much at the time, then you look back and realise – actually that really did rock me.. it’s kind of changed my whole existence.

What revives your creative spirit?
For a long time, I was really busy and working a lot. And I think the thing is for me, if you’re not feeling it, you have to be careful not to push it too much. That’s what actually helps me, taking a break.

Sometimes I’ll spend a whole day watching Seinfeld or something and feel semi-guilty, because this is my full-time practice, but then just having those breaks kind of brings me back the next day… or sometimes that could last a week and then I start jotting down ideas or get inspired again. I think that when I was pushing all the time and not taking breaks to refresh, I think I actually lost a lot of creativity and that’s when I was kind of just doing art for other people – and you really want to be doing it for yourself.

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What keeps you going in your practice?
The realisation that this is all I would know how to do or be! I’ve tried to not be this, sometimes I think “I’d kinda just like to live a normal life!” cause your brain is constantly thinking… sometimes I think I’d just like to be a receptionist and just do this job. But you can’t turn that off. So I think that’s what keeps me going, it’s just a constant, it’s always available. And obviously the people I surround myself are really creative as well, so that keeps me going, wanting to push the boundaries.

What’s the last dream you remember?
Oh it was horrible!!! I mean… it was one of those almost lucid dreams. I had control but then it was like a billion hands pulling me into my own bed, but as I woke up it just felt so real! I was like “oh my GOD!!” and checking the sheets frantically. I can’t remember what the rest of it was based on, I just remember it feeling so real and this dragging, pulling feeling…. I haven’t researched what that means yet, but it’s probably some sort of stress related thing.

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Do you have any rituals?
I guess more of a routine. You kinda have to do that, otherwise you get distracted. My studio is at my home as well, so it’s very easy to. I try to get into my practice straight away and give myself little intervals. So in the first hour, if I’ve done my work… then I’m allowed to have my Redbull…and then I’m allowed to have my kitkat…. and then an hour after the lunch break occurs. So just making sure I put things into the routine so I don’t get distracted. Before I even start my day, I’m very online, just with social media, making sure I’ve got a photo up every day. And because I’m doing Father Superior, the clothing brand, now as well, it’s really important. So balancing those two. Making sure my website is up to date. Checking all my emails. A bit of a boring ritual, but things I need to get done. Then I get into my art.

Do you have any other creative outlets?
Yeah, so this new Father Superior fashion collection. I am curating other artists for the pieces, which is something I really love – curating and setting up other projects. I’m currently working with a few galleries on some projects. I think because my style is so defined, I like to step out in any field where I can curate or collaborate. I really enjoy that.

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Sticky Fingers wears Father Superior

What props did you bring to the shoot & why?
I brought my posca pens, they are my favourite material to use. I use them for all my murals, I don’t use spray paint…my wrists are too weak, that’s my excuse!

I’ve done 4 or 5 story buildings with posca paints and then I use rollers to do fill ins. Surprisingly it doesn’t take too long. I’m pretty good with the process now.

I also brought a sculpture that I made out of expanding foam, he’s called “A bad memory” and I made a whole bunch of them for a series that coincided with the actual paintings. So he’s just the prototype, he’s got some hair hanging from his back and a weird eyeball and he’s kinda a gross looking thing. I brought one of our shirts and a jacket from the collection and one of my own t-shirts that an artist from New York just collaborated with me on, and I brought one of my favourite books. OH and my favourite beret!

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What do you feel is the hardest part of your practice?
Constantly being available for the headspace to create. Also it’s a really social kind of practice when you want to be a full-time artist, you know, like I’m constantly at gallery openings and events. And I’m naturally a very introverted person generally so it pushes those boundaries, so it’s coming out and not feeling socially retarded. Sometimes I just want to be a hermit and stay home and paint. But this kind of thing comes up a lot in conversation. When I teach my student, I talk about how a lot of the time it’s 50% talent and then 50% who you know and how you market yourself. Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of way better artists out there than me, that aren’t putting themselves out there. I’m really lucky enough to be able to have the two mindsets of being a business person and also an artist – to push both sides. But that’s probably the most challenging. If you’re not in a headspace to go and mingle, but you kind of have to put on that mask, that’s sometimes really difficult.

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What’s been one of the most significant moments for you so far – creatively?
I’ve had lots of amazing experiences and have met some really incredible people. Every few years you just create something that even you blow your own mind hahaha and it’s exactly how you imagined it in your head, which is rare, cause that doesn’t happen very often.I think those little moments make me feel like I’m a real artist, because it can feel like you’re faking it a lot of the time! “I’m just using these pens and drawing on walls…is this even real??” So I think when I push those boundaries and get reactions from people that I think are quality, I think that’s the most exciting times.

Then working with people like Lister, getting that opportunity to be his assistant on this recent trip was really amazing and just watching other artists like that – how they work and how intense their process is, and it can be different to your own, but you can take a lot from that as well.

I think it comes with age as well. As I move forward I’m a more determined about the way I want things to be, but you also say “actually yeah I’m gonna give this a go.” You evolve.

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You we’re talking about how when something you’ve imagined comes true and you’re blowing your own mind… a lot of artists talk about this thing called “the flow” or like their tapping into almost a higher being or an energy. How do you explain that?
Yeah that does happen! And I think it’s almost at random, I think say when you create something that you really love it propels you into doing the next work or you go through a stage where it’s this really exciting high for a certain period of time and it’s brilliant! You lose track of time and stop worrying about what other people think when you’re in that kind of zone. I don’t know how to explain it… it’s just freakin awesome and it doesn’t last very long! Enjoy it while it’s happening.

What motivates you to keep going?
Yep… Love and Revenge.

If money we’re no object, what would you do?
I’d be curating a lot more shows. I’ve got a lot of big ideas that would involved lots of big budgets… so I’d love to be putting on these shows all around the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about having a studio that’s a bit like a creative hub for artists as well – which is what you guys do here. I just found that when I first moved to Sydney there was a real hub with Hibernian, Ben Frost Studio space and it was really cool space where you could go and create and socialise with them and get on a level that was exciting so you could go back and once you’re challenged with and create something yourself. And it feels like in Sydney that’s kind of stopped a lot and it’s very solo. And it feels like Sydney is really stopping a lot of things from happening or evolving – like the Keep Sydney Open campaign. It’s ridiculous. It’s really changed. It can get pretty lonely when you’re a solo artist, it’s good to be able to bounce ideas off other artists. When we travelled through France in grenoble there’s this massive warehouse space where people go for this thing called an Artist Meeting and it’s just where people go and have pizza and beer and all the walls you can just paint. It’s a really cool environment.

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What do you see yourself doing when you’re 50?
If I’m alive… that would be great! Um probably the exact same thing. I don’t really do life plans. My friend asked me the other day “What’s your 5 year life plan”… I was like “umm. I’ve got a day by day plan just getting through this shit” Step 1 – be alive… nah but hopefully I think I’d want to spend time as I get older a bit more in the country, a little more isolated and hopefully with some lovely husband. Hopefully just a lot more travelling and operating and working in a lot more cities. Hopefully a lot more curating and just being an art person that helps and facilitates others would be nice.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on an exhibition in WA and just curating the next collection for Father Superior, booking in the space and the media and making sure all the artists are actually doing their jackets!

Tell me about Father Superior
It originally started with Creaon, the artist I was working with, and just thinking about how you don’t see enough grungy hand made put together stuff and when you do, it can look a bit too ‘hand-made’ we wanted to have that mix between high fashion and hand-made and bridge that gap as well between fashion and art as well. So it’s like this wearable collection. All the images on the back are really detailed and gorgeous with an underlying theme that holds that nostalgia for classic cult films, the villains or the characters that only the coolest people would know them and those are the people you want to surrounds yourself with! The jackets are vintage jackets that I source. First we come up with the character that we’re working on and then select the jacket that suits the character. Creaon did the first whole collection and now from here we’re getting other artists involved. It’s basically an exhibition that’s wearable and I think it’s nice as a modern day thing, you can have artwork that you frame and hang on your walls. But it was really nice at the exhibition you actually have people wearing your artwork, moving around the gallery. It’s like a special piece, a one-off. With the next collection we have several different artists in the one collection, we’ve got Lister, myself, an American artist and Pat Doherty from WA.

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What does the term “create or die” mean to you?

It’s pretty straight forward and it’s great – either do it or get out! I really like it. Most of the time with creative people that’s their only option, so it’s a good way to describe it. Create or Die! I love it.

~ Conversation with Deb Morgan, Portrait Photography by Chrissie Hall for Create or Die’s 100 Pictures | 100 Stories project ~

Check out more of Jodee’s Art here: 
http://www.jodeeknowles.com
https://www.facebook.com/jodee.knowles

And her fashion label Father Superior: fathersuperior.com
https://www.facebook.com/Fathersuperiorlabel/

Create or Die-Write-DebMorgan-Portrait photographer-Chrissie Hall

 

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