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Mouthing Off Artists’ Spotlight: Jake Purkiss

Mouthing Off Artists’ Spotlight: Jake Purkiss

Mouthing Off Artists’ Spotlight

In this series, we will be showcasing the work and experiences of our Resident Artists, who have taken the time to have a chat with us either over Zoom or email. We hope that through these interviews our readers will be able to get to know our artists, what they do, and how they have made their way to where they are now. Our Resident Artists work in a diverse range of media, from painting and drawing to ceramics and film, so there should be something of interest for everyone!

In our latest segment we take a look at the work of Jake Purkiss, a portrait artist who divides his time between Essex and Warwickshire. Jake uses his work to capture an intimate moment between himself and his subject matter, creating moments that highlight the variances of subjectivity and impression.

While in his final year as an undergraduate at the University of Warwick studying History of Art, Jake has been building up his portfolio with the goal of creating a distinct artistic presence on his social media channels and website (you can find the links to these at the end of the interview).

Without further ado, let’s get to know Jake and his artwork.

Jake Purkiss
Jake Purkiss

Get to know Jake Purkiss

Please introduce yourself to our readers!

Hi I’m Jake, I study History of Art at the University of Warwick, so I am constantly bouncing between Leamington Spa and Chelmsford in Essex. My work predominantly consists of oil portraits, however recently (because of lockdown and a lack of space for large oil paintings) I’ve taken the opportunity to experiment with new mediums and develop a more varied style.

How did you get into your chosen practice?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, but I never thought of it as something I could pursue, as I knew I wasn’t particularly good at creating realistic depictions, which at the time seemed to be the sole purpose of art. However, once I was exposed to more art, especially modern and contemporary pieces, I realised that realism was but one aspect. For something to be constituted as art it doesn’t have to be perfect or realistic, instead it has a freedom to be all manner of things.

I think this realisation fits perfectly with fellow Chelmsfordian Greyson Perry’s statement “mistakes give you your style and imperfections make you” (loosely paraphrased) and it is this utopian artistic freedom that ultimately seduced me. This interpretation of art has allowed me to take a more relaxed approach when it comes to my paintings; I’ve always tried not to worry too much about the result and instead focus on the process, and I believe my best work has been produced when I’ve been able to lose myself within this process.  

What themes does your work pursue and what is the role of the artist?

I’m very much interested in people, how they live and the ways in which they interact with the world around them. Sometimes my art will be self-reflective of the situation I find myself in, other times it will be channelled through the people who surround me, or alternatively I go outside of my immediate environment in search of someone else’s world to represent – whether it be real or not.

I think there is an element of documentary within my work, and this ties in with the question ‘what is the role of the artist?’. I believe the artist in most cases has the job of translating, whether it be a concept, an idea, a place, an emotion, a particular disposition, or simply an object, into another format that can be consumed, witnessed, or analysed by others. I hope that through my art I provide a perspective into the facets of the world that I am trying to represent, and that I translate them into something that can be appreciated, understood, or questioned.

What or who would you say are your main artistic influences?

If I’m going to be honest, and feed into the cliché, I’d have to say the artists that initially inspired me to start painting were the impressionists. Their loose style appealed to my sense of the imperfect and their interest in representing their rapidly changing industrial world attracted the anthropologist in me.

The art of Grayson Perry has also always played an important role. As soon as I found out he grew up in Chelmsford I was amazed that anyone noteworthy could come from here, let alone an award-winning artist. I find his comments on society, class, and politics very recognisable and familiar. I’m currently writing my dissertation on him, so it’s inevitable some of his artistic ideology will come to influence mine!

In terms of my current projects, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore by Mark Leckey is by far the most important. It’s a compilation of found footage from British dance floors which chronicles the underground club scene, from the 1970s to the early 1990s. What strikes me the most about this film is the way it engages with a particular era’s environments, people, and experiences, and translates them with a piercing authenticity through creative filmmaking. 

Have you faced any challenges in your artistic career?

The biggest challenge I face is time and space, especially with painting. I don’t really have the resources to produce the work I’d ideally like to make, and I find working at home in general especially difficult. I like to have specific spaces that I can attach to certain activities, and in turn that helps with my motivation and output.

However, these limitations have forced me to try out new things and it’s been nice to get out of the routine of just producing paintings.

Do you have any current or future projects lined up?

My current project has really renewed my interest in art. I’ve started producing some short films from both home footage and found footage.

The latest piece I made is very heavily influence by Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, as I attempt to translate a boozy night that I had in my mate’s kitchen through an assemblage of film and filmmaking techniques.

Another piece I’ve also been working on looks to chronicle the year of 2020 through the footage on my iPhone’s camera role, assembling the videos together to create an implicit almost diary-like film.

What are your goals for the future?

I actually have quite a lot of admin to do! One of the pitfalls of being an artist is everything outside of being an artist. I’m currently trying to refine and improve my website and make myself look more professional on social media and across the internet. These are all things I don’t enjoy but are required if I want anyone to see my work, so I’m slowly chipping away at it when I get the time.

(I’m looking for an intern to help with this so send me a DM on Instagram if you’re interested, I promise I’ll give you a good reference and it’ll look great on your CV!)

In terms of goals for my art, I really want to get some of it displayed in an exhibition – and I know we’re working towards this at Mouthing Off which is really exciting – and then hopefully more work and exhibitions follow!   

Can you give some advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in art?

Submit your work to Mouthing Off and listen to Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures, ‘Playing to the Gallery’.


Find Jake

Instagram | Website | Queries

Want to meet more of our Resident Artists? Check out our previous interview here.

About The Author

Charlie Colville

I’m Charlie, a digital journalist and Mouthing Off's Editor in Chief. You'll find me exploring galleries, listening to podcasts, and using the gift of the written gab to get my opinion out to the world.

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