• Lead

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There (limited edition slipcase)

Art

Oliver Jeffers' limited-edition monograph is an object of beauty

Posted by James Cartwright,

It’s been a long old while since we’ve checked in with Northern Irish Brooklynite Oliver Jeffers, but in the four years since we last spoke it’s safe to say he’s been exceptionally busy. Those of you familiar with Oliver’s work undoubtedly know him for his charming children’s illustration; some of the most detailed and engaging stuff out there for kids today.

But there’s more to Oliver’s work than just entertaining youngsters. Alongside his picture books he’s been slaving away at an impressive fine art practice, the fruits of which have been compiled into a monograph by Gestalten. Neither Here Nor There shows off a different side to Oliver’s character and deals with his interests and concerns in a very direct way. Keen to find out his motivations for producing this kind of volume, we stopped by for a long overdue catch-up.

  • Oj-12

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There (limited edition slipcase)

You’re mostly famed for your children’s illustration, how does it feel to get your other work out into the world?

It feels good. I suppose the release of Neither Here nor There will be the biggest splash my non-commercial work will have made to date. I’ve been consistently working on my fine art practice the entire time my picture book career has existed, actually from before. Picturebooks began as an offshoot from what was going to be a series of straight paintings. I’d been exhibiting my paintings fairly regularly up until my move to New York, and then sensing a need to regroup, began working more quietly and determinedly behind the scenes working up a momentum in order to put something out with more impact. I hope this accomplishes that.

Neither Here Nor There talks about how you’re interested in everything around you. Do these interests spur both your children’s work and personal work?

Yes. They both come from the same place in a way. I’m intrigued by the world around me and feel compelled to both capture it and ask questions of it through my work. Sometimes this is in the form of questions, sometimes in the form of stories. Sometimes my picture books are stories, and my paintings are questions. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

How do you balance being an illustrator and an artist?

Well I consider an illustrator to be an artist, as a sculptor is an artist and a musician is an artist. Perhaps the only real meaning in the term difference is that one works to a brief and agrees a fee beforehand. How do I balance my two practices? Simply, self-discipline and judgement. My friend, when asked if it was easy being an artist, answered, “It’s as easy as quitting smoking.” I love this answer. It’s as easy or as difficult as you make it. I try to work as hard as I can – no one else is going to do it for me. So if I want to make a piece of art, I figure out a way to do it. When there is no advance, or deadline, this means finding a way to pay for it and dedicating the time to do it. 

There are a lot of desirable vintage objects in your work. Do you collect these in real life?

Yes. Many of the props that appear in my work I lift from my immediate surroundings. I’ve always had an eye for vintage furniture. There is a sense of craftsmanship that seems to have dwindled over the years, and often old things are better made. I’m still a fan of contemporary design, and my aesthetic is a balance between the two. My studio is filled with furniture I found on the streets of Brooklyn. I did get one quite lucky haul, where a public school a block away from my old studio had a clear-out of old wooden desks, chairs and file cabinets. It’s amazing what people throw away!

Everything you do is underpinned by a sense of humour. Why is humour important to your work?

Something I’ve come to realise since moving away from Northern Ireland, is that there is a pretty unique sense of humour in that place. When thinking back I suppose this could possibly be derived from several decades of turmoil there where all sorts of untold horrors occurred. The reaction seems to have been if you don’t laugh, you cry, and who wants to cry?

  • Oj-1

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There (limited edition slipcase)

  • Oj-11

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There (limited edition slipcase)

  • Oj-7

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There

  • Oj-2

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There

  • Oj-3

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There

  • Oj-5

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There

  • Oj-6

    Oliver Jeffers: Neither Here Nor There

Jc

Posted by James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our two editors. He oversees Printed Pages magazine and content wise has a special interest in graphic design and illustration. He also runs our online shop Company of Parrots and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Ellakru-painting-7home-int

    Latvia-born Ella Kruglyanskaya now lives and works in New York, depicting cartoon-like friends and “frienemies” out-and-about in large-scale oil paintings and murals. Ella’s work is packed with bawdy humour, exaggerated forms, exuberant mark-making and interactions. She describes her intention as “pictorial events… [that] aspire to an unspoken punch line” – the content, references and line-work all filtered through comedy.

  2. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  3. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  4. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  5. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.

  6. Atelierbingo-list-int

    Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo’s new zine Wogoo Zoogi I’d never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is “they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it’s everything we’ve been led to expect from the pair, who we’ve dolloped praise on in the past.

  7. Faigahmed-carpets-list-2-int

    Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani artist doing remarkable things with carpets. He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

  8. Slavs_tatars-loveletters-home-int

    The work of Slavs & Tatars is awash with unlikely cultural references, balloons, archives and carpets. Identifying “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” as the focus of their work, their projects are generous, engaging and genre-crossing. Starting as a reading group before shifting into making their own work, Slavs & Tatars have recently been working on a continuation of their Long Legged Linguistics project, a multi-faceted study of language as a source of emancipation. The somewhat secretive collective were kind enough to tell us more about this and their “bazaar” approach to making work.

  9. Davidbatchelor-october-13-int

    If you go down to the Whitechapel Gallery anytime between now and early April you’ll be sure to come across a huge breadth of work chronicling the adventures of the black square, from 1915 all the way up to the present day. It’s fairly monochromatic, as you might expect. Upstairs, however, things get drastically more colourful – especially once you come to David Batchelor’s specially “disrupted” issue of October, one of the most respected art journals out there, first published in 1976 and edited by esteemed writers Michel Foucault, Richard Foreman and Noël Burch.

  10. Alexdacorte-easternsport-1-int

    Perennial student artist Alex Da Corte has qualifications, residencies and awards coming up to his eyeballs having studied Film, Animation and Fine Arts at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Printmaking and Fine Arts at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and then a cheeky MFA in Sculpture at Yale. Busy guy!

  11. Duane_hanson_-_karma3

    Karma Books have just published a catalogue of Duane Hanson’s post-humous exhibition Flea Market Lady. Shown at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, Duane’s flea market ladies are taken from real-life characters and cast in bronze. An incredible feat of observation and skill, his work captures the character of his models and creates a very real atmosphere of flea-ing. Karma have kindly let us publish an extract from the imaginary conversation Maurizio Cattelan has with the artist in the foreword to the book:

  12. Hdl5_copy

    Hubert de Lartigue paints photo-realistic portraits that “serve the beauty” of his models, and his muse. He considers “emotion and soul” the most important part of a painting and spoke to us about his working process, inspiration and the impact of his muse, Octavie.

  13. Main_10.00.34

    If I won the lottery I’d open a gallery, and when I opened my gallery I’d totally rip off everything that David Kordansky Gallery does. From the big stuff like the very well-curated, cool list of artists they represent, to the impeccable printed matter they produce, to the matter of their easily navigable and well designed website – these guys are celebrating people’s work in the best way possible.