Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
I'm Jason Brooks, born 1968 in the UK. I became known during the time of the YBA’s (Young British Artists), a group of artists who came to prominence in the 90s. I now live & work between London & Gloucestershire.
Describe your work at the Van Gogh Museum in 3 words.
Landscape seen. Now.
What is the premise of these paintings and what inspired the work?
For this show I’ve paid homage to Van Gogh’s radical visions through the over-looked and inspirational landscapes of junk shop paintings.
I’m interested in how to develop the language of painting and what relevance it might have today. I’m fascinated by amateur, hobbyist paintings that I collect from eBay, thrift stores and the like. I use these paintings as inspiration to develop a meta language - these works have the potential to open up a whole new vocabulary. My aim is to see how far one can deviate from the original, not how closely one can copy it.
At first sight these paintings might seem to have been executed quickly and spontaneously. However, appearances are deceptive. Just as in Van Gogh’s works, everything here has been carefully considered. They also appear to have been painted with only thick paint, but from up close it can be seen that in some places this is simply an artistic device.
Nowadays, millions of images are consumed on a daily basis, but looking is not always seeing. Painting can help us to learn to look more closely at the world around us.
Why did you choose these paintings to be exhibited at the Van Gogh Museum?
The temporary exhibition of my works is part of a series of presentations of modern and contemporary art held in the final gallery of the permanent collection at the Van Gogh Museum, named Van Gogh Inspires. In these presentations, the Van Gogh Museum reveals how many generations of artists have been inspired by Van Gogh.
Van Gogh is often portrayed (especially within film & literature) as the romantic frenzied artist but I believe work doesn’t necessarily echo life. His paintings are not frenzied but very considered articulate works.
Hopefully through my paintings, there’s an opportunity to re-look, not only at the everyday paintings found in junk shops but also at Van Gogh and reconsider what we take for granted - for looking is not always seeing.
You said: “Looking is not always seeing.” Please explain more about this concept in visual art.
We live in a world dominated by screens of all types. I use painting to hold up a mirror to our time. While we have algorithms to condense the images we consume in everyday life, we still need artists to show us that the truth is in the detail.
How does your painting process impact the artwork itself?
The two are combined and mutually beneficial to each other. Painting is a form of language and each mark has a subtext to it, therefore helping in the reading of works.
What impact do you hope this showcase will have?
I hope it highlights how painting can transform the way we see the everyday and how traditional structures of painting can continually be made relevant.
Have any artists other than Van Gogh inspired or influenced your artistic work?
We don’t live in a vacuum, I believe it’s about being receptive and having an awareness of context. To that end, I’m interested in the whole of art history and how that can inform us. It’s about having a conversation.
Did you face any particular challenges during the project?
Condensing the wall text and hoping the paint sample that I’d chosen for the gallery walls wasn’t too dark, but it all turned out as I hoped.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Remain resolute in your convictions and desires, but at the same time be receptive to change and to failure. Sometimes one has to take a step backwards (or to the side) in order to move forwards.
How can people find out more?