This week Brighton Journal spoke to local artist, Jo Teasdale. Jo predominantly works with photography, and takes a conceptual approach towards exploring elements of human nature such as memory, identity and emotion. Her most recent work is a response to our lives in isolation, which she has produced as a hardback hand-bound journal. We discussed Jo’s My Adopted Family project, Brighton and Hove Camera Club, as well as how the local area has informed her work. Take a look.
What are you doing today?
Today I’m boxing up my origami kimono dolls. I made a washi origami doll for each day of Lockdown. I didn’t expect to make so many, so I’ve made boxes for them and covered them in Japanese 19th century ledger paper. I bought a lot of washi paper back from Japan – I didn’t expect to use it so soon.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I’m lucky to have a room at home that I can call my studio. It’s getting really full though. Over the past three months I’ve also claimed the kitchen table, spare room and the lounge!
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
My latest project is usually the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on. Recently, I have completed a huge body of work called My Adopted Family. It began quite controlled and restrained then gathered momentum and took on a mind of its own; each chapter became more surreal and abstract. For each chapter I played with scale, 3-D transformation, mixed media and pushed some pieces through extreme circumstances not knowing what I was going to end up with.
To accompany the work I created family albums either in the form of handmade books, traditional photo albums, 3d images and film. It was hugely enjoyable and liberating to let each chapter just unfold and go with it, no constraints no rules.
It was all working towards my first solo exhibition, but unfortunately the pandemic prevented that. I’m excited to hopefully show it when things get back to normal.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I’ve always been artistic and created things. When I moved to Brighton some 12 years ago I stopped teaching and went back to doing art for myself. A few years ago I discovered photography and have been passionate about it ever since. I love its immediacy and it’s the perfect tool to express myself.
What are you currently working on?
Currently I have packed away the digital camera and been exploring peel-apart film negatives, using a Polaroid 250 land camera. As a response to our lives in isolation, I have created a triptych journal looking at new skills, conversation, time and finally our emergence out of lockdown. I have made it into a hardback hand-bound journal. I’m really proud of it, now I’m thinking about the next one – our new normal – but this time I want to use colour peel-apart film – extracting the negative is a completely different process and I have no idea what the results are going to be.
What are the key themes in your work?
The key themes in my work do vary. My project work has a conceptual approach unveiling elements of human nature. My Adopted Family examined the concepts of memories, identity and inheritance. My portfolio – The Factory – examines the emotions and feelings that occur in the breakdown of a relationship.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
I really like it when people tell me they have had to look twice at my work or that they are drawn back to revisit it or that they relate to its stories.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
My main medium is photography. I’m not really into long bouts of post processing – too much sitting down for me. I like to experiment, push my boundaries, and use my photographs to create something tangible. I really like the scope and immediacy of photography. I’m also intrigued how the camera makes not only pictures that are in my head but captures the feelings and emotions. I use a collection of Polaroid cameras which each have their own personalities and peculiarities. I really enjoy exploring all that thy have to offer, especially taking advantage of the chemicals they have within them.
What equipment could you not do without?
My most favourite equipment, besides my cameras, is my scanner, my printer and my paper creaser – it’s such a big hulk of metal that only does one very simple job – one crease – but its done beautifully. I wouldn’t be able to make my books without these.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by listening to other artists and photographers speaking about their work, its almost like i feed off their passion and enthusiasm and that drives me to experience a piece of that too. I belong to Brighton and Hove Camera Club and have been completely spoilt by the caliber of speakers who have visited us and generously shared their amazing work and stories.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I began my photography in Brighton and found it a rich source of material, exciting, unpredictable and different. Now, I really enjoy cycling over the South Downs, it gives me the opportunity to think and get some clarity on my ideas.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
My favourite place to see art is the Tate Gallery, I absolutely love it. My other favourite place is Rencontres D’Arles – the biggest annual photographic festival held in Arles. The whole town opens up its public buildings and showcases the best of photography from around the world. One week there equates to a year of inspiration.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
I would love the challenge of collaborating with a writer/poet and a musician to create a multi sensory piece of work. I once saw Ice T narrate the work Ask Your Mama by Langston Hughes accompanied by a film and a jazz quartet. It blew me away.
What’s your favourite colour?
As a result of My Adopted Family project, red has become my new favourite colour, with orange coming a very close second.
To find out more about Jo and her work, take a look at her website.