Seattle born, New York based oil painter and contemporary ceramic artist Jesse Edwards renders uncompromisingly contemporary depictions of imagery pulled from his laptop, vintage cartoons, models sourced through Craigslist, and clothing and paraphernalia staged in classical arrangements on a folding table in his studio.
He blends the detritus of contemporary life with a painting style reminiscent of the Old Masters, to create provocative pieces that hold up a mirror to modern American culture and the myth of Americana.
Edwards tells Art Plugged about his new solo exhibition, Little Jewels, currently showing at OMNI London, until 7 January 2023.
Q: Tell us a little more about your practice? It appears that currently you are making ceramic pieces, paintings and abstract palette works, how did these each come about?
Jesse Edwards: Yes, I’m currently working with ceramic and oil paint. I work with other mediums as well but the core of my practice is life drawing. I’ve always been excited about ceramic paintings and ceramic making. I just love the paint you know so basically that’s a huge question that I can go on for this for days. With the abstract works, basically I work on an oil painting I mix the paint on a separate canvas. On linen I use an oil prime linen as what I based my paintings off.
You know I just love the colors and sometimes you know I would like to see images that I would just make up by simply mixing paint and it felt like it was kinda like a cloud that I was looking at. Where are you looking in the clouds and you see faces or whatever and that’s how I felt about the abstract works. There’s also something I like about it where is like I use all the materials do you know I don’t let anything go to waste. Like I kill the beast but I use its bones and I use its intestine, so you know that make sense?
Q: Your current exhibition, Little Jewels at OMNI, marks your first solo show in the UK. How do you anticipate your work being received by UK audiences? You capture a kind of Americana in particular, a pop-cultural revelry – do you think this will translate well?
Jesse Edwards: Well at the core of my art making practice is life which is a very primal thing and you know there’s a bond between all people that share this. It’s a picture making and a way of communicating without words, that everybody can understand so if they got a pulse they are going to react, you know.
Q: Share a little more about your background, how did you get into a career as an artist? Were there key moments that shaped your practice as it stands today
Jesse Edwards: Well, I’ve always been interested in art ever since I was a youngster, very young. My mom was a very talented artist and I always just looked up to her and it made a huge impression on me as a kid. I got into my career as an artist as a still life oil painter. One of the key moments in my career that kind of sent me off into painting drug paraphernalia and just funky stuff was just getting exploited and rebelling against the gallery that I was working with at the time. I got a really positive reaction from people outside the gallery world, so that’s where I kind of kept on going and then it kind of pulled me back in.
Q: It seems like you learned a lot through mentorship and tutelage from other artists such as Charles Krafft and Chuck Close. Can you tell us more about these experiences and how they shaped you as a maker? Were there other figures who greatly influenced what you do today?
Jesse Edwards: I did learn a lot from older artists, particularly the two forementioned. You know basically it just kind of gave me different views from artists that I respect and how different they were to each other kinda helped me like develop my own voice as a unique individual. And have confidence in my own existence.
Q: Where did the idea for the TV sets come from? They’re such evocative objects!
Jesse Edwards: It was a simple idea – what do we look at and then I thought we look at TV. My friend Charlie who taught me a lot about ceramics was making machine guns and grenades and I thought that was just amazing and he taught me how to make forms and then I thought what am I gonna make and I just thought, well what do I look at, I look at TV’s. and later I thought about what else and made phones and a few ceramic laptops.
Q: How did you learn to create ceramics using traditional methods. They have been compared to 17th Century Dutch pieces based on technique, for example.
Jesse Edwards: The technique I developed for painting the ceramics is that of making a traditional oil painting where I will make an underpainting and then I’ll do over painting. It’s just the medium is different as opposed to oil paint, it’s underglazes and paint over the glaze.
Q: Your still life works are shockingly contemporary in subject matter – how do these scenes arise and what inspired you to monumentalise such mundane, even subversive objects?
Jesse Edwards: Well with my most recent paintings, I was struck by the artist Mark Grotjahn and his butterfly canvases. I just liked the energy and I wanted that energy in my own work. I was just looking at the paint brush in the chaos and that, you know, linear quality. That’s where I got that idea from and I did a whole canvas covered with these like spikes of color.
Q: Lastly, what can viewers expect from the show at OMNI. Walk us through your ideas and what will be on show.
Jesse Edwards: Well this has some interesting works in it that have to do with cryptocurrency. I tried to become a day trader (bag holder now) and it seemed like it was pretty simple but it’s very very complex and it’s just kind of brought me into this whole weird subculture on Reddit with lingo like diamond hands and all these other weird terms. Like one of the miner scenes of the dwarves one was actually inspired by crypto miners.
I was gonna change the little diamonds into crypto signals like Dogecoin or Bitcoin but I just left it as it was but the other ones are just based upon different lingo meanings. I saw a meme with Tinker Bell in it and that was really interesting, you know. I get excited about something and that’s all it takes – I make an artwork about it. There are some card houses that are very metaphorical and easily interpreted in different manners as far as like financial markets for instance or economy. It’s an honor to have the privilege to show in the UK and I’m very grateful to OMNI for the opportunity.
©2022 Jesse Edwards
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