Focus LDN is proud to be an event partner with Urban Soup's exhibition A River Runs Through It.
September 6th-10th | Oxo Gallery.
We meet up with Jonny Love, who is an artist and collaborator with Samuel Jordan, who together make the sensational artistic duo LoveJordan.
In one sentence describe what you do.
We are collaborative artists, we have been collaborating for ten years and we are interested in all media, so we are multimedia artists, including painting, sculpture, kinetic art, everything really; that’s us in a nutshell.
How did you and Sam meet?
I had just left school with no qualifications and I was bumming around the internet doing portraits which wasn’t going too well, even though I thought they were quite good, my clients didn’t think so much.
Were these commissions?
Yes, it is quite popular now to order portraits of yourself over the internet, and you never meet the person you just get a photograph, but I was there back in the early 2000’s. I got lots and lots of jobs, but 50/60% were rejected.
How did this work?
I didn’t go to art school, I had done art GCSE and failed. I just didn’t know what to do with my life, I didn’t even know if I was into art or not, it was a depressed state where everyone was getting on with their life and I was floating around doing nothing. It was then that I decided to do portraits in ink, because I thought I was good at them.
Did you promote yourself through a specific portrait website?
No, just on Ebay, and there was no Twitter then, no Instagram, I didn’t really know how to promote myself. I just put myself on Ebay and slowly I would get one a month, then the more ratings I got, I would then get two a month, etc. I did that for a year and just found it tiring, thankless and badly paid. I ended up going to Eastleigh where I met Sam (Samuel Love) who was working in a card shop. As a teenager I was full of confidence, I would speak to anyone, so we started chatting. I’m not sure what his qualifications were, but he went on to do dance at school. We got talking and I was making some art, and he asked if he could join in. I thought 'yeah sure, you can do this bit for me' and it just worked; we harmonised.
How do you find being in a collaboration with another artist?
Well compared to our contemporaries everyone is on their own in their studios, but in a duo you have each other and you can talk and bounce ideas off each other. We have never squabbled over anything, it is total harmony. We may have a difference of opinion, but we let each other express those opinions and actually it works out fine.
How long have you been LoveJordan?
Gosh, I think it is ten years this year. We weren’t sure when we formed that you could actually be a collaborative duo, because having failed everything at school, I should have taken in a bit of art history. To have known about Gilbert and George and other duos I would have realised earlier that art can be whatever you want it to be. You can have twenty people in your collaborative circle if you want. So yeah about ten years, we were going to be Jordan Love, but that sounds like one person instead of two so we settled with LoveJordan.
You are now represented by The Woolff Gallery and have just had a solo show.
Yes, that’s right our first solo show and that was a month long show in August, and almost a sell out, in fact, I think it is a sell out now.
Thank you very much.
You said that they chased you guys for a while before you got onto their books.
Yes, originally we were with Will’s Art Warehouse and we did some fantastic work with them and they opened up a lot of doors for us. Twice yearly we have open studios at Wimbledon and Nick Woolff from Woolff Gallery often comes round and really liked our work. I’m not really sure why we didn’t jump at the chance, I suppose you get comfortable with where you are and you feel loyal to the people that have made you. But after speaking to Will’s Art, they said actually Woolff would be very beneficial for us and after three years of Woolff chasing us we said yes and haven’t looked back since; it has been awesome. At the end of last year he took our work to Miami, to Art Basel and we sold a humongous piece which gave us the confidence to stick around and explore the art scene with him.
You work seems very unrestricted in terms of process and technique, how do your artworks develop from idea, to choice of materials, to completion?
Kind of an oddball way of going about it, someone may give me a material or I may see something on the internet and the idea springs from that, rather than having the concept first. Very rarely does the concept come first, it is often a material which we want to expand on, and boy have we used a lot of materials over the years!
So you start from the material and the idea develops organically as you work forward?
Yeah, we don’t make samples either, making small versions or testing it, we just go for the large version immediately and we have quite high success rates of producing something good. Sometimes we produce massive things and we don’t like it, so we just dump it. It’s quite a harsh way to do things, a lot of people have said 'oh no it’s fantastic don’t do that' but we are the creators and the destroyers of our own work.
It sounds like a very all-or-nothing mentality, there are no half measures!
Yes, we just take the plunge. I will give Sam an idea or Sam will mention something to me and then I’ll get the canvas or what ever it is we are using and just go for it.
There is a lot of complexity in your artwork, a lot of stuff created en masse.
I see myself as an opposite to a minimalist, I am what I call a 'maximalist' - I like to make things as detailed and complex as possible. I really enjoy it when people come to my art shows or studio and say 'wow, how long did that take you?' It’s a real buzz. And when you come to the end of a piece, a really tough, complex piece, the thrill that you have completed it is quite important. Again, with the portraits there was no climax it was ‘I have drawn a stranger and it is off in the post, thanks for my negative feedback.’
Is it excitement once the work is finished, or relief?
Yes, it is like a race really, you want to see it to the end and you feel really proud and want to show it to people. That gives me real excitement, an adrenaline rush I guess.
Who do you think your work appeals to?
Over the years we have had a number of clients, ranging from the young to the very old. You would think the older generation would like the traditional works, but they are very excited by the young artists and have sold some bizarre pieces to them. There is a lot of new money coming in from youngsters as well, so they are a big client base. I suppose anyone who is interested in investing in a potential future artist or whatever you'd want to call me.
We think you are pretty established at the moment.
Well we are heading up the ladder, there was a period where I thought I was going backwards and almost gave up completely, but thanks to The Woolff Gallery we are heading back in the right direction.
As an artist who has been doing this for ten years now, how do you keep resilience in times when things aren’t necessarily going very well with sales, etc. How do you keep your persistence and motivation to go on?
It is tough, it helps that we are in a duo, because you can relay your fears to each other about things that are going on. Particularly say when things like England voting to leave the EU, there was a definite lull in the art market. People lost confidence and they were holding on to their money, it was scary year and we weren’t sure what was going to happen in the future; whether we would still be doing art I even started looking for a second job, but I suppose it is a confidence that eventually things will pick up. Those times are scary and a lot of people at my studio complex, you would find them getting second jobs, or searching further afield to sell their artworks. But I’d say If you are an artist, and you know that is who you are, you just have to weather the storm, no matter what.
What gives you the most enjoyment as an artist?
When someone sees a piece of work and they fall in love, you can see immediate joy from something that you created from nothing. That is really important. Money aside, money is good and can be bad if you push that side, but number one is the pleasure of someone buying your piece and hanging it in their home because they think it is worth it enough. That is probably the thing that drives me most.
There is a lot of humour in your work, I imagine the process in those work to be quite enjoyable.
Yes, those are quite drunken times too, I think that is important. For me anyway, art can be serious or fun, we lean onto the fun side because it should be enjoyable. Even the serious pieces you can enjoy because of the skill or the concept gives you pleasure, but ours is sort of an immediate humour. It makes me happy and it makes other people happy and that is just the way we like to do it.
I suppose, 95% of being an artist is the creation side of it, which most people don’t see so you may as well be having fun whilst you are doing that.
Exactly, especially with a bit of wine and there are two of us, our process is quite fun.
In A River Runs Through It which is coming up, you are going to be making some works which are orientated around the city of London. What can we expect to see from you guys?
Well a number of years ago our main concept was London inkscapes, we would try to get to the highest buildings and take photographs and draw in ink what we could see. Mostly we were able to get up to like centre point and meet architects, we’ve been up the Shell tower which no one is allowed up anymore because of protests and as there is no barrier some people have committed suicide of it. So it is quite restricted now.
I will be bringing back those types of pieces, you are going to see a lot of cityscapes going on forever as London does. We have been up the Shard now, Tate Modern has a new viewing platform with great views, so we are going to do quite a few of those and as well as that, we are still playing with materials and making 3D cities, creating a paper city next to a wooden city, so the river runs through and there is a continuous journey through different materials.
What is the most interesting place that your art has taken you?
Bankruptcy. Making art on zero budget. That really was an interesting time, that was stressful. Lots of heart ache.
Do you think you have learnt from those experiences?
Yes, I think it builds character and gives you food for thought and you really appreciate things. You have small people who look after you and champion you and you have big people. In the end it was the small people that came through and really lifted us up and said we will help, we still love this, even though we were making it out of scrap materials that we’d found. It was a definite humbling moment to realise that I am -£300 in my bank account, I have maxed out every credit card possible and I’m not going anywhere, but I’m still going. To look back at it actually, it reaffirms that I think this is what we are meant to be doing. We went through it and we are here now, we are somewhere.
Do you think that artists should have to go through that struggle to build character?
No, you can look at loads of famous artists and everyone has their own story. Each has their own past and place where they are going. Looking at Grayson Perry for example, for thirty years he was an ordinary artist and then suddenly there was a great energy behind his work. Literally overnight he became this humongous sensation. I think that there is a different waiting period for every artist.
LoveJordan will be exhibiting their work in Urban Soup's A River Runs Through It this September 6th-10th at the Southbank's Oxo Gallery.