AF: When did your interest within the arts begin?
JH: I was raised making things. My mother was an art teacher and believed strongly that most basic life necessities could be learned through the process of creating—motor skills, problem solving skills, improv, patience, self-critique and failure. So I grew up in a world of crafts—painted sneakers, candles in seashells, potato stamped wrapping paper, it was a family of “do-it-yourself.” My parents’ child raising philosophy was also that weekends were intended for educational excursions. Every Saturday growing up we packed up and drove to places such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the House of Seven Gables in Salem, and the Union Church of Pocantico Hills to view the windows of Marc Chagall. So I established an appreciation for the arts and their history very early.
AF: How did you end up in New York?
JH: Despite being raised in Massachusetts, New York was always the intended destination. Having such an art centric childhood it seemed natural to aspire to live in New York. I stayed in Mass for my undergrad, for which I went to Holy Cross and then to Philly, to the University of Pennsylvania for my MFA. Afterwards I finally felt ready for the move. I’ve been in New York two and a half years now and don’t intend on leaving any time soon.
AF: Your fist solo show in New York opens this Thursday called Boxed in Plastics at Galerie Protégé. You must be very excited. What is the inspiration and idea behind this exhibition?
JH: I am very excited…also feeling slightly vulnerable. I always get nervous before shows but in the past there have been other artists to help calm my nerves and give the work an additional dialogue. However, for the first time the public will view my work, just my work, alone in a gallery, uninhibited by other narratives.
The concept of inspiration is always a difficult one to answer; not because the work has no origin, but because the inspiration has been developing for years and is not isolated to the paintings in this show. My short background spiel is that I started as a “landscape painter” which quickly evolved into an abstract interpretation of space. This idea continued through different iterations exploring information as pattern, micro and macro studies, even to computer animated sketches. Then I landed on the idea to use more “abstract” painting language to match the “abstract” notions of space. This seemed logical enough but it was a challenge to commit to as a painter given its weighted history–especially considering our image obsessed society. The removal of direct references works as a way to explore broader ideas of unoccupied space; allowing the work to deny the established classification of landscape, portrait, and still-life.
But to more directly answer your question, Boxed in Plastics originated from a painting I showed this past November. The original Boxed in Plastics was a more static space, defined through collage-esque shapes, confined to “one” form–unable to chameleon. Building on that original painting, much of the work in this show suffers from a heightened definition of location and object. They are tighter framed by solid shapes and not fluid lines. This idea certainly evolved throughout the process of working on the paintings and some paintings express it more obviously than others, many divert from it entirely. OTC (a painting in the show), for example, is more of a conversation pushing against the idea of confinement and rejecting singular orientation. Ironically most of the paintings in this show detour from the “abstract notion of space” I am so desperately trying to understand, and yet they provide a pivotal piece of information to jump forward.
AF: What do you want the viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?
JH: The work always starts as an internal conversation that moves from painting to painting. I have to assume this registers completely different to every individual. It is impossible to know how someone else will receive something, but that being said, I often try to project the possibilities. I hope some people grant them the privilege of being read through art references as it is a language like any other. More so, I hope that viewers feel the desire to want to ask what the work is about, but exhibit restraint to give themselves time to consider the choices. Most important is for someone who is not familiar with art and meets the work for the first time to feel completely comfortable analyzing it at face value. I always strive to match the formal attributes to the conceptual ones so that everyone can walk away with a piece of my process and personal way of viewing the work. There isn’t a single idea I aim to create as a take away; more a desire to put people at ease and encourage them to think past their initial reactions and reconsider ideas we often treat as givens. Lack of pretense is so vital; to allow oneself to feel invited long before accepting an understanding of the work leaves the door open to all possibilities.
AF: Has living in New York influenced your work?
JH: I don’t know if I can specifically say how New York has influenced my work; but it has certainly influenced me as an artist. It is such a different experience learning art from books and museums to living in a place where it is actually being made and therefore forever changing. And beyond that is the blatant reminder of the people behind the work. For better or worse, New York is constantly reaffirming that the work is the artist and vice versa. Meeting the people behind the product gives me such a different insight into the process. The ability to interact with new artists every day is something I have found so motivating and encourages me to keep pushing my own work forward.
AF: I also love the ability to interact and hang out with artists in New York. This is why I love doing studio visits. How long have you been working on the paintings for this show?
JH: The paintings from the show are all from the last four months. Boxed in Plastics II and Semblance were the first two finished in January, shortly followed by Dependants and Moving Backsplash, and One More Piece fittingly was the last painting I finished just two weeks ago.
AF: What are your plans after the show?
JH: I have been working pretty steadily since January and it was somewhere in the last month that I think the work veered from my initial concept so I am still trying to run with these ideas. I am always the most excited about work still in progress; I am hopeful that the next work will react against and build on the present work. So right now I am working on new paintings that could possibly be part of my next show this summer.
Thanks for taking your time to talk to us Justine. The show looks fantastic and can’t wait to attend the opening. Good luck!
BOXED IN PASTICS BY JUSTINE HILL: APRIL 17TH TO MAY 17
Opening April 24th from 6-8pm
197 Ninth Ave (Lower Level – Chelsea Frames)
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212-807-8726 Fax: 212-924-3208
Monday: 10am – 6pm
Tuesday: 10am – 7:30pm
Wednesday: 10am – 6pm
Thursday: 10am – 7:30pm
Friday & Saturday: 10am – 6pm
Sunday: Closed (by appointment)
Interview by Jamie Martinez
Photography by: Max Noy Photo with the art work photos provided by the gallery and the artist.