Glass speaks to Piers Jackson about his show I Am Not Me

SHOREDITCH project space UNIT9 presents I Am Not Me, a solo exhibition of works by British artist Piers Jackson curated by Rowena Chiu. The project presents new sculpture resulting from Jackson’s ongoing explorations of sacred geometry, in particular, Platonic Solids.  

The Heart, 2018, by Piers JacksonThe Heart, 2018, by Piers Jackson

Taking the wall-based work titled ‘The Heart’ as its starting point, I Am Not Me is an octahedral sculpture consisting of eight congruent, regular, convex polygonal faces. The work is painted with a vivid red exterior and gilded with a copper interior; red being the colour of vitality and copper being a metal associated with the goddess Venus that is also known for its conductivity.

The sculpture appears to be missing the lower tip of the octahedron for it to stand erect on what would otherwise be a sharp point. However, as the viewer approaches it, the interior view of the work reveals what appears to be its missing tip, implying that the work is not truncated, but in fact penetrates the surface of the gallery floor. This sense of confusion is compounded by the realisation – upon closer inspection – that what appears to be the gilded base of the sculpture is, in fact, illusory: it is a mirror reflection of that which is above, below.

Piers Jackson, I Am Not Me curated by Rowena Chiu, UNIT9, London, 2018.

Piers Jackson, I Am Not Me curated by Rowena Chiu, UNIT9, London, 2018.

The title of the piece comes from Jackson’s interest in the idea of the ego as distinguishable from the id (or in the case of this sculpture, the exterior view as distinguishable from the interior).

Glass speaks to artist Piers Jackson.

Thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview Piers. To start, could you tell our readers how your project at UNIT9 came about?
I Am Not Me is my third off-the-wall sculpture. The first unfolds, and either hangs on the wall in the format of ‘The Unicorn or sits on the floor as The Ouroboros. The second, Stasis, hangs 15 or 20 centimetres off the ground, so is in fact a mobile or pendant. I Am Not Me appears to penetrate the ground. It’s curious how all three have an ambiguous relationship with surface. The project at UNIT9 came about when the curator, Rowena Chiu, challenged to me to re-make the wall sculpture, The Heart, as large as I could. Around this time I Am Not Me appeared during another experiment. It was a wonderful coincidence. I recognised this piece as a UNIT9 project and was delighted when Rowena and Alex Flick, founder of the space, agreed to host the exhibition.

Ouroboros by Piers JacksonThe Ouroboros, 2013, by Piers Jackson

What attracted you to the space of UNIT9?
UNIT9 is one of those spaces that I’m not sure why I like, only that I like. For me such spaces are more interesting to exhibit in than those which have an obvious appeal. I don’t consider myself a market orientated artist and UNIT9’s mission statement allowed me to examine this while encouraging me to go further than I’ve gone before.

Tell me how I Am Not Me was conceived?
I Am Not Me was conceived, like most my work, by pursuing a creative lead. Suddenly, something unpredicted shows up and stops you in your tracks. Moments like these are tremendous. It feels like you’ve seen into the future.

Stasis, 2015, by Piers Jackson Stasis, 2015, by Piers Jackson

When and why did you start making works?
I started making art in my late teens when I had no way of expressing the passion I felt. In a sixth-form general studies class, we were shown a slide-show of paintings at Tate. It was marvellous. Right there on the classroom wall, another world opened, one I felt so aroused by, so attuned to. From that day to this, all I’ve really done is make art.

What first drew you to your signature materials of paper and metal?
An artist friend of mine was using gold leaf. I love its warmth and consider gold the perfect colour. I used to work with encaustic paint on the back of glass, but had to stop after one of my lungs collapsed. Artistically, I wasn’t ready for a change of medium. I then started working with pigment-dyed card because it was aesthetically as close as I could get to the finish that my health forced me to abandon.

Could you describe a typical day in the studio? What is the process with which you make work? Do you have to be in a specific frame of mind to create?
I tend not to make work before lunch, although in winter when it gets dark early, I might work for an hour or so after finishing my daily study of philosophy at 11am. I work all afternoon, stop at 5.30, eat at 6pm and only continue into the evening if I’m under pressure to complete a work for a project. I live in my studio and live with my work all day. It’s always there. I need everything to be in place, everything ordered. I’ve often thought that the studio reflects my state of mind. I usually work seven days a week.

Portrait of Piers Jackson by Ithaka RoddamPortrait of Piers Jackson by Ithaka Roddam

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I love music and film. In the evenings, I dance or go to the cinema. I’m not inspired by these, it’s how I relax. Despite having an insatiable desire to see, I don’t often travel – my vision is inward or abstract.

What do you hope to achieve with the new works? Is there an ideal setting or condition for them to be displayed?
With the new work, I intend to be less limited by personal skills and more willing to rely on whoever can assist me in realising what I am striving for. I’d like to work on a larger scale, but wouldn’t want anyone in my studio. I’m not sure about an ideal setting … it’s not something I’ve thought about.

What would be a dream project? Is there anyone with whom would you like to collaborate?
It’s all a dream project. When your ambition is purely artistic no one can add to it, no one take it away. Sometimes I fantasise that if I look very carefully I might find one of my geometric reliefs depicted on the wall in a Giotto fresco.

What’s next?
I’m working on a sculpture of which the interior and exterior are different and yet belong. It’s very exciting.

by Scarlet Thomas

I Am Not Me by Piers Jackson is at UNIT9 until March 15, open by appointment.

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