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Abstract of an artist’s mind: Tyler Jackson

Tyler Jackson is a 24 year-old sculptor and installation artist from Wellington, New Zealand. He’s also a board member and facilitator at play_station, an artist-run exhibition space.

You use fairly industrial materials in your work, are you influenced by a particular art movement?
I guess I’d say I first got kinda interested in those materials from looking at the artists from the light and space movement of the 60s and 70s in California. That kinda first sparked my interest in lighting and colour. And I guess from there I looked into like what their reactions were to the East Coast minimalism that was happening at the time and looking at these kinda materials that give this sense of like a perfect finish.

Tyler Jackson – No title (for Ayler Raven-Pearce), 2018.

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Many of your sculptures take on organic shapes. How structured is your process when creating these?
I guess I start with kinda drawing abstract shapes up on my drawing book and then like put them through my Illustrator on the computer and draw them out so they can be grafted. So then I send them to a routing company… I kinda have to cut out these little slits in the work… that’s where they kinda hold each other so there’s not actually any screws or glue holding the two, three or four panels to each other, it’s just kinda using these slits though. That kinda drawing method starts to create a sense of the work, then once that’s all done and I cut it all down to shape and I cut all the materials, I heat up the ovens and I heat this plastic up to around 150 degrees. I mainly use plexiglass… like a colour translucent plastic so it kinda lets light in but you can’t actually see through… So I guess once I start heating all these pieces of these panels up I guess I start thinking whereabouts they’re going to go. There’s already some kind of outlines where they have to go in terms of the shaping of the composition. But then a lot of it is very intuitive. Once the plastic is malleable I’ll have some cotton gloves on and I’ll thread it through these kind of slits that I make and start forming these abstract shapes or compositions. Sometimes I’m not happy with them so I have to take them out quite quickly, because the plastic has about a couple of minutes before it starts to cool down and you can’t really bend it anymore. It will start to crack if you force it. It’s a very intuitive process where if you’re not happy with it you have to take it back out quite quickly and flatten it down so it can fit back into the ovens. So it’s super intuitive. At the same time I often have some sort of plan of where I think they all kinda go, but that can definitely change or it can definitely stay the same… It’ll be a couple panels that I have to work with and they’ll start to form these shapes for each panel. So I do one panel at a time. It’s this kind of process of re-evaluating after each panel is done and then also heating the plastic up and making the work and so forth.

Would you characterise your work as inoffensive?
I guess so, yeah it really depends on what kind of work I’m making. If you’re talking about my wall reliefs or sculptural works I guess you would. But then I also kinda have installation works that is a lot more commanding of the space. It pushes the viewer into certain movements through that space… how they see and how they feel seeing colour and light and to play with the space. Yes and no. My wall relief works I’d probably say so but yeah my installation work yes and no.

I’m really interested in the immateriality of light… how colour is related to that and this immateriality of colour as well.

Tyler Jackson – No title, 2017. Thermoformed Plexiglas, Aluminium and Lacquer.

How important is immateriality to your artwork?
Yes that’s really important, I’m really interested in the immateriality of light. When I was studying my honours degree in Wellington I was looking a lot into the immateriality of light, the sense of materiality of these materials, so how that kinda relationship works. This filtering effect of this immateriality as well as just materiality. I’d say my practice is the interrelation of those two kind of things. I’m really interested in the immateriality of light… also obviously colour is the offspring of light – how colour is related to that and this immateriality of colour as well. That all comes in a lot more in my instillations rather than my wall relief work. But definitely it’s still there because I still use translucent or transparent industrial materials.

Do colours play an integral role to the overall piece?
Yeah, definitely colour can be emotive. Sometimes I’ll do monochrome works that definitely play out this emotive feel and then other times it will be this interplay of colour, interaction of colour. And again a lot more with my installation work, my sculptural work is a lot more formulas in a sense – in my general practice I’d definitely say all the colours are quite emotive. I get a lot of comments about seductiveness of the light or seductiveness of the colour.

Do you often find people struggle to understand your work without a context?
Sometimes yeah, it’s hard to tell. Yeah I prefer not to have writing around my practice because I’d rather – I do look into the act of seeing as a big theme in my work. Inspiration from certain artists, obviously James Turrell, Robert Irwin and so forth, even Olafeur Eliasson… Yes sometimes, I’m not too worried about that I guess. People can take what they want and everyone is going to have different takes and opinions. I’m quite interested in the formulas appeal, what you see is kinda almost what you get. Also there’s these kinda interplays of light and how you feel and how you move within the space because of these artworks and all that sort of thing so I guess yes and no. It’s quite a tough one to answer.

I guess I just don’t want to do anything else with my life really.

Tyler Jackson – No title, 2017. Installation view at ‘New Paintings’, Alta Gallery, Wellington.

What drives you to create?
I’m not too sure. I guess I just don’t want to do anything else with my life really. I first got interested in photography and went to art school as a photographer and kinda got quite bored with photography in a sense and went into making and producing these works. I guess I’m process driven, I just really enjoy spending a lot of time making these works, to planning them out, to drawing them out and to producing them. I don’t know what drives it, (it’s) just addictive really.

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What’s the hardest thing about being an artist in Wellington?
It’s quite small – it’s probably about 350,000 people in Wellington. So I remember going through my undergraduate degree and everyone’s plan once they finish the degree at university was to leave and go to Auckland or to Melbourne or to Berlin. It was these steps you’d do and no artist would stay in Wellington. That was first going to be problematic, but then we had quite a good generation come through the year above us, our year and the year below. A group in my year including myself and a group in the year above, we create artist-run spaces, because there weren’t any artist-run spaces in Wellington for six years before that. It’s kinda crazy because Wellington is such a creative city and it’s been known for that, like a small Melbourne or something like that. It’s quite ridiculous to have no artist-run spaces. It’s been a couple months since we’ve had two artist-run spaces, it’s just amazing, both of them are still going. I still facilitate play_station… there’s also Meanwhile. It definitely helps the scene of Wellington. Now everyone’s beginning to sit down and stay in Wellington and actually establish themselves in Wellington. It’s a lot different than what it used to be be, but it’s still very small and a very small art scene, you know every person in it… you know, you can’t really show at the same gallery too many times. So you start to look out to Auckland and stuff. The size of it is my biggest problem but again it’s quite good stepping stones being able to produce work, establishing yourself, then moving onto these bigger kind of centres like Melbourne or Berlin. Currently we’ve got quite a bad housing crisis, we’ve also got huge heavy costs trying to live in Wellington. It’s crazy trying to find flats, that’s really competitive. That also comes down to studios. Although I’d say Wellington is in a really good place.

Tyler Jackson – No title, 2017.

You’re a board member at an artist-run exhibition space in Wellington. Do you feel artists need other skills to support themselves?
Administration I guess, that’s a huge one. Working at play_station, I deal with all the emails and that sort of thing so it’s got me really good at the administrative process of being an artist as well. I’m also quite deep in the creative New Zealand funding application for a project next year and all that kind of stuff comes in. Running play_station, there’s been many benefits, you meet so many artists, not just from Wellington but across New Zealand, even Australia… I guess it’s just yeah, administration and also I guess dealing with many different things at once in your life. We all work full time, we all have an art practice, I also have a part time job working at Robert Heald Gallery and then you’ve got to run this artist-run space with a couple other people. A lot of time management skills come in once you get busy… There’s a lot of work but there’s always more things we could be doing, there’s always more events we could so, more projects we can do, you can never get on top of it. Time management is super important to how you operate an artist-run space, as well as being a practising artist, as well as trying to live and pay your rent.

If you could collaborate with any artist, in any medium, past or present, who would it be and what would you ideally create?
That’s a tough one. I’d probably just have to say, I’m just starting to talk to a close friend, a Wellington-based artist called Ed Bats. He’s also an abstract painter/sculptor, we’re looking at doing a show later in the year. That’s a collaborative show, I’m just really excited to be doing that kind of show. We’ve known each other for a while, we enjoy each other’s work. We’re doing a two person show and we’re really interested in putting on a really awesome collaborative project where we can make all the work together. I’m not too sure if you’ve heard of his work but it’s great, you should definitely check it out.