Artist Interview: Jim Starr

Q. What is your creative process? What inspires you? 

A.Travelling and Expeditions to Pakistan, Montana (USA) Svalbard (Arctic Norway) Lesotho (South Africa) and Iceland. I have always tried to make art on the move - drawing, painting…and I take hundreds of photographs.

Whilst at University in London I was looking at the work of Robert Rauschenberg and lots of other painter/printmakers such as Jim Dine, Jasper Johns and Richard Hamilton and I was beginning to experiment with printmaking. I found that by working with screen-printing I could combine all these media. I was also looking at a lot of contemporary illustrators and graphic designers such as Dave McKean, Vaughan Oliver and David Carson.

At the graduation show I was taken on and represented by Debut Art (at the Coningsby Gallery) in London and I worked as an illustrator for a while. On moving to Bristol I developed a screen-printing studio and exhibited in bars, restaurants, hotels and galleries. At about this time I moved away from illustration to focus on my own creative ideas, original paintings and print editions. It was an exciting time as the Street Art movement was really beginning to blow up. In summary I can find inspiration in any subject matter: American and British pop art, old movie posters and vintage comics for example. Later on I became interested in mythology and history. Portraiture has appeared at times and recently I have been looking at landscape and natural history themes.

Q. You don’t seem to be limited to what techniques and materials you use; please tell us about that. What made you go into screen-printing?

A.Versatility - You can paint with a drawing and 'print' with paint and a photograph! You can use hard or soft edged colour and imagery... I use all the traditional tools associated with making artworks…

I love drawing (but don't practice enough). I create collaged scrapbooks and take hundreds of photographs. I have had my work animated once which was very interesting. I can screen-print onto anything that is flat. So that obviously includes paper, canvas, material such as silk and denim - plastic, wood and even surfboards! I love texture and bright colour. With a screen printed image you can lay down very subtle muted colour (almost like water colour) or big fat slabs of bright, pure can work in layers too.

A screen print can be very stripped-back and elegant or multi-layered. A print that I produced for Formula One management back in 2003 had forty separate layers of ink.

Q. Do you have a favourite subject matter?

A.Given time and space I can get interested in anything. The best commission I have worked on was based on the immediate surroundings and vicinity of the River Thames at Hammersmith. I went to London for a few days and spent time soaking up the area. The project was very exciting but the reference sketches and photographs that I brought back were pretty terrible. The Thames was grey and muddy and the bridge was a dull green. I took a lot of photos and started 'sketching' in Photoshop. This process took about a month and there was an initial struggle to dig out some usable imagery. The brief and colour palette were pretty strict. After about eight months we had some great work though…the final eight canvases produced were a real departure from my usual (previous) way of working and helped lay the groundwork for my solo show in 2015 and all other work since.

More recently I have gone back to painting birds and wildlife.

Q. “A Passion for Print” is a retrospective exhibition showing your work from your 20 years as an artist. How do you feel your work has evolved over that time?

 A.My work has definitely become looser and more painterly. From 1998 to 2008 my prints were heavily inspired by pop art using flat patches of bright colour contrasting with areas of sharper printed imagery. From 2008 onwards I started to work on bigger supports and canvases using household paints, rollers and spray cans, which coincided with me moving away from illustration and commercial printing onto more self-initiated themes…

My palette became softer and more subtle and the screen-printed elements of my work became more experimental and less reliant on 'found' imagery. Working directly with close friends as models I embarked on a series of portraits, which were exhibited in 2012. These newer paintings have a looser and more luxurious application of paint, relying on drips and splatters and 'happy accidents'. The final image is a composite of abstract painting and stretched and distorted photography. Each layer of paint and/or print and mark making will go through a process of destruction, addition and editing until a final outcome is achieved (often by chance). More recently I have gone back to traditional drawing and painting - having the work photographed then printing from the resulting images.

Q. You were recently invited to exhibit with the famous Bvlgari Curiosity Shop in Rome in their “Serpentina Art Exhibition”, which is tremendously exciting. How was that for you?

A.It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience. Bvlgari flew me out to Rome and put me up in a lovely hotel for the private view and launch of their Serpent themed museum/show room. I was met at the Airport and then taken straight into the centre of Rome. Later in the evening I went up to the Bvlgari archives and had a private view of their jewellery and design archive.

I also met some of the other artists who were exhibiting, the cultural heritage curator and also the CEO of BVLGARI.  Looking back on the whole evening it was surreal…

There might be an on-going working relationship and more collaborations in the pipeline but we need to wait and see…

Q.  What is next for you?

A.Continuing to build my audience in the West Country and a solo show back in London - more work influenced by landscapes and the natural history in North Devon.  I really want to concentrate on drawing again and working up a suite of prints from those drawings. Perfecting my printmaking practise but also searching for the perfect print which will probably keep me busy for the rest of my days…

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