We sat down with Neil a few weeks ago to talk about his new collage work and his show, opening this Thursday. We tried not to get distracted by his two dogs, Lola and Swarley, and their adorable little faces (we were mostly successful). Duplex is so excited to have him in the gallery, and we look forward to seeing all of you on Thursday!
D: Where are you from?
NJ: I grew up in Eastern Washington.
D: What attracted you to the collage process?
NJ: I began making collages in graduate school. I found a big stack of magazines, and took them to my studio. After sitting with the pile of magazines and looking and re-looking at them, I began to make collages from them. The magazines offered so much in the way of source materials – interesting textures, colors, and the glossiness or matte quality of the papers used. The collages allowed me to create a more complex image and informed the paintings I was making at the time. After graduate school, I didn’t have a studio space. My wife and I were living in a really small apartment and collage was a way to still create with the materials I had at hand.
D: Your drawings and paintings from last year relate very well to your collages, do you think your drawings influenced your method of construction in collage?
NJ: I feel like they relate thematically but I feel like they differ in the way that they are created. It is a different way of thinking and working. I’ve been exploring a reductive process in my current collages, whereas my paintings and drawings are a very additive process. I was struggling a lot with my painting in the last few years, and the current series of collages really seemed to give confidence to my creative process again.
D: What did you struggle with (or not) when you transitioned to collage?
NJ: I don’t really feel like collage was a struggle for me. I sat down with the magazines and all the images and it just sort of flowed naturally. The only problem I had at first was to figure out what I wanted to make. But I feel like once I started working I was able to work through some different ideas pretty quickly. Maybe it was because of the wealth of images already available to me in the magazines.
D: What sort of materials do you collect images from? What attracts you to the images you use?
NJ: I use all sorts of magazines. I use fashion, architecture, and nature magazines – there’s really not a magazine that I wouldn’t use, unless the paper quality is really poor. I am attracted to images with architecture, mixed with landscape that contains a human presence. But not every image that I find actually works as a collage after it has been cut apart and assembled. It’s a trial and error process to find an image that will work technically.
D: What are the most important tool you use?
NJ: Right now it is an exacto knife, glue and a bone folder.
D: What themes do you pursue?
NJ: I have been interested in what the land will look like once people are no longer present. It’s a theme that I’ve been exploring since graduate school, in my paintings and collages. I feel that landscape can have the residue of a person, even after they are gone.
D: What other artists do you look at or where do you draw your inspirations from?
NJ: My inspiration for the collages comes directly from the images in the magazines. I always get inspired to make art after going to the Met in NY, or seeing a great show, or talking with friends who are making art.
D: You recently moved from SF to NY back to Portland, how has relocating changed your work and process?
NJ: We’ve been back in Portland for such a short time, if my work and process has changed at all yet, I’m not sure I’m aware of it. It’s always tough to move from city to city and start working again – it’s complete upheaval. I’m excited to discover how this move and this city will inform my work.