Pictus – Jared Betts
A little Q&A with Jared Betts, a recent artsnb Creation Grant recipient.
1. Please provide a summary of the project for which you received artsnb funding.
The most recent project that I received a Creation B Level grant for, was titled Pictus. This body of work consists of 8 large scale paintings and is currently touring major public galleries, universities and museums across Atlantic Canada. The series explores new expressive forms in the domain of contemporary painting. A deep appreciation of gestural and expressionist forms has since set the tone of these highly charged works. Rethinking the very parameters of contemporary painting, my work touches on pertinent and pressing concerns around the practice of chromatic mark making and how this relates to the ideals of the 21st century.
2. Walk us through the experience of the project – what did you explore, how did this project/experience impact your artistic practice/creative process or how you see yourself as an artist?
Abstract Expressionism was a reaction to the war in the 50s in America. It flourished in New York City specifically after World War II, it is sometimes referred to as New York School painting or action painting. The varied work produced by the Abstract Expressionists resists definition as a cohesive style; instead, these artists shared an interest in using abstraction to convey strong emotional or expressive content. My work is inspired by the abstract expressionism movement, yet it is also completely removed from that period. We are so fortunate to live without war in Canada, it is such a different time than it was then.
3. How has your artistic practice changed over time? Where did you begin and where do you see yourself going?
Originally I started out doing portraits and creating creatures. Baby orcs, goblins, demons and monsters. In 2002, I attended NBCC for animation. I did 2 years there and realized I didn’t want to be an animator. The school was absolutely phenomenal, but I was 18, I didn’t fully believe in myself yet and wasn’t ready for the amount of work that needed to be done at that time. I moved out West to snowboard in Alberta, I was very into snowboarding and I was sponsored for skateboarding at the time. I decided I would go back to school and attended Alberta College of Art and Design. (ACAD) With the Rocky Mountains being so close, I was still distracted by fresh snowfall powder days snowboarding. It wasn’t until 2005 that I decided to move back home and attend NSCAD and dedicate my life to art. Since 2005 my work has changed and grown. In 2007 I had a professor that encouraged me to lose all figurative aspects and focus on Abstract and layering and color. Learning about Cy Twombly and Dekooning really opened my mind and changed me, and I started seeking an abstract expressionist root.
Lately I’ve started to incorporate some silkscreening butterflies into my work, but primarily I remain true to abstract work. I feel that I will continue on the abstract or neo abstract route.
4. Please describe a current project/piece that you are working on – what excites you about it?
I’m currently exploring two projects, large abstract work with neons and pastels and a smaller body of work that is with anime characters and moths along with abstract gestural neon and pastel spirals, stars, patterns and drips. I’m very inspired by Asian aesthetics. I exhibited in Tokyo and have been extremely inspired by neon lights and colors ever since.
5. What themes/techniques are you exploring in your work? What do they mean to you?
Since the 50s we’ve had so many changes in the fashion industry, the biggest change being technology, which we have seen absolutely explode. My work is very influenced by 80s fashion movements with neons and leopard pattern pastel runway dreams. It also is a reaction to cyberpunk technology and inhabits the space where consciousness descends into an ethereal dream; where pattern and colour expand to become an immersive sensory experience. In this cerebral space, the synthetic fuses with the organic, and images dissolve into an amorphous arrangement of marks. I seek to examine this dream-like suppression of recognizable imagery and capture the visceral sensation that bubbles up from underneath. By combining the graphic edge of mark making with the sublime nature of the colourfield, I aim to create a surface that is both gently dissonant and hyperactive. Multiple layers of tension – between conscious and subconscious, pattern and color, flat surface and illusory depth – propel my desire to use visual cues as a means of stimulating metaphysical sensation.
6. What is the most rewarding aspect of your artistic practice?
Being able to travel and do artist residencies has been quite rewarding. Showing my work on an international level has been pretty fun too. I am so fortunate to have the support of artsnb to help fund some of my projects, this has really made me strive to continue growing through my work and challenging my practice.
7. Please describe your creative process – how do you approach creating a piece, performance or series? Do you have any routines, rituals, etc.?
Well first I generally get anxious staring at that blank canvas until I realise I just need to jump into it. It’s a constant battle, it’s not always sunshine and roses in the studio. Literally creating something from nothing is like being God in a sense. You are creating a world through color that has virtually never been created before, creating new feelings for the viewer that they sometimes can’t even comprehend. It’s a bit intense, haha! The first layers in a painting are always the hardest, it is the skeleton. And then as more time and color goes into it, it starts to feel more complete. Abstract painting is always harder than creating something from life because it’s nothing and it is everything. Its automatic drawing and it is also drawing from experience. It’s both fantasy and mathematical, seeking structure and balance while also embracing chaos and change through movement and compositional elements through color and dreams.
8. What do you think is the greatest challenge OR greatest advantage for New Brunswick artists?
I think that because we don’t live in larger cities there is very few art collectors, so that is a huge challenge. An advantage is that rent is very affordable in New Brunswick, but the reality is that in New Brunswick the majority of artists are below the poverty line. Art as a full time career is both amazing and terrifying, there’s no way to know what each month will bring. I really love the fact that I can drive 15 minutes in any direction and end up in the forest though. A big part of my creation is being inspired by either forest walks to waterfalls or sitting by the ocean. New Brunswick is a very beautiful province but it’s very tricky to have a stable income from art. Which is why artsnb has been so so incredible in helping my career. I have received 9 grants and have been able to travel, so I feel like I am very fortunate.
9. What role does collaboration play in your work? What possibilities do you see for crossdisciplinary collaboration?
I recently did a collaboration with a Moncton Skateboard Shop called Working Class where I used details from my recent paintings for the skateboard graphics. This can be seen on my Instagram at @jaredbetts
10. Why is art important for you and/or for New Brunswick?
Art is everything to me, without art there would be no culture. Think about it, from the cereal box design, to traffic signs on your way to work, to the paintings in your home. Even houses are art and design. Music covers, it goes on and on, just about everything stems from art. Without art it would just be this crazy void. Even before we learn to speak we are creating art with crayons, making marks, exploring self expression and creating. The colors and compositions of the world is what breathes life into society making us learn and grow. Art is everything.
Jared Betts earned a BFA from NSCAD University in 2010. He has exhibited in over 100 group and solo exhibitions in Canada, Paris, Tokyo, London, New York City, Germany, Costa Rica and Iceland. Jared Betts is the recipient of a Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage grant, a New Brunswick Tourism, Culture and Heritage grant and nine artsnb grants. Jared currently works out of a studio in Moncton, New Brunswick. His work is included in numerous corporate and private collections in Canada, Paris, California, China, Australia and Iceland.
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