• 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. Main

    Artist Larry van Pelt wants to spread the word that “Jesus in life makes a difference.” Already a keen artist, Florida-based Larry decided to use his creative skills to spread the message, and began drawing Jesus in a number of different working environments. His collection involves a huge range of work scenarios, including a truck driver, a secretary, a carpet layer, a bodybuilder and a french horn player.

  2. List

    We’ve long admired the work of Californian set designer and art director Adi Goodrich. A veritable mistress of creating the sort of strange, cartoon-like scenes that pop with colour and ideas, she’s worked with big-name clients like Michel Gondry and Wieden+Kennedy, but she recently got in touch about an intriguing solo exhibition at The Standard hotel in Hollywood, entitled Like Thiiiiis. The show takes the form of an installation in a glass box behind the hotel’s reception desk, and features a number of images that look to show what it means to be a young creative at the start of your career.

  3. Main

    In a beautiful profile in The Guardian recently, journalist Tim Lewis travelled out to the Hollywood hills to peek behind the gates of Hockney’s jungle-like home to get a glimpse of what the now 77-year-old artist is up to. As it happened, he had been very busy indeed: making a whole bunch of new paintings that are, in classic Hockney-style, moving in a totally different direction from his previous work.

  4. List

    Remember Kim Keever? Back in the summer of 2013, the New York based artist wowed us with his amazing landscapes created in 200-gallon tanks of water and what’s more, he let us in on his process with some fascinating set-up shots. Now, like many a painter before him, Kim has moved from landscapes to more abstract creations albeit within the context of his sculptural practice.

  5. List

    This project by artist Erica Allen is an oldie but such a goodie. Way back in 2008 California-born, Brooklyn-based Erica decided to merge a collection of faces from found barbershop posters with discarded shots of studio backdrops, creating a series of oddly alluring fictional portraits. Removed from their original context, the freshly-trimmed gents pictured come across as utterly anonymous and strangely distant, connected to one another only by a crisp shape-up and a gaze fixed somewhere in the distance. And if that rainbow backdrop didn’t inspire the album artwork for Drake’s Nothing Was the Same then I don’t know what did.

  6. List

    Edmund Clark is one of the most interesting artists working today, exploring what is arguably the defining issue of the past 13 years. He’s interested in the wars waged by the USA and UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the fall-out from this foreign policy and how it impacts on us here at home. His new book The Mountains of Majeed continues this theme, as it’s a reflection on “the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan through photography, found imagery and Taliban poetry.”

  7. List

    The secluded French port of Le Havre is a very particular place. Closed off by barriers, it is staffed solely by men, and jobs there are strictly only passed on from father to son. All of which made it the perfect backdrop for artist JR’s contribution to the Women Are Heroes project, which saw him collaborate with the dockers to create a huge image of a woman’s eyes on a 363-metre long container ship.

  8. List

    The bright, woozy haze of Wojciech Fangor’s psychedelic paintings is mesmerising. It’s even more so having learnt that the Polish artist, who worked during the 1960s, created these Op art masterpieces entirely in isolation, working in Eastern Europe having not seen the similar works being created in America and Europe by the likes of Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. As such, while the images feel familiar; there’s also something exotic about them, pulsing with light created using intensely coloured oil paint applied in thin layers. A new show named Colour-Light-Space opens next month at London’s 3 Grafton Street gallery, and will display a number of works by Wojciech from the 1960s and 1970s that demonstrate his mastery of all three words in the title. It’s fascinating to think of the artist working on these beautiful optical illusions and explorations of the power of painting well before similar works were created elsewhere in the world, and it’s great to have his work celebrated in the way it deserves.

  9. List

    Mark Lazenby is the go-to guy for collage that just works. We last featured the artist two years ago and since then his portfolio of pieced together artworks has exploded with even more impressive works and a real exploration of materials and collage techniques.

  10. List

    There’s not a pie in the cultural world that James Franco isn’t ready and willing to stick a finger into, and to prove it the actor, director, poet and musician has just announced a new exhibition of his artworks, entitled Fat Squirrel, which is to be held at London’s Siegfried Contemporary gallery. The show is an undeniably eclectic collection, including a number of self portraits of the artist in the guise of various famous historical figures, a deer orgy entitled Triple Team, and some bright painterly collages, not to mention the eponymous overweight rodents which are undoubtedly our favourites.

  11. List

    I’m known for my sweet tooth and ability to consume an obscene amount of cakes, sweets and biscuits in one sitting, so it’ll come as no surprise that I was instantly drawn to Will Cotton’s sugary scenes of candy-laced lands.

  12. List

    Time and again Amy Woodside gets in touch to let us know about new projects she’s cooked up and time and again we’re powerless to resist them. The New York-based artist is focussed to a fault on her fine art practice where iconic letterforms emerge from meticulously registered screen printing and frantic flourishes of spray paint. Where first she caught our eye with multicoloured wordplay, the constant reduction and refinement of her process has resulted in a new series’ of totemic words like ‘Hero’, ‘Cash’, ‘Hoax’ and ‘Like’, pre-loaded with cultural context and double meaning, writ large on the canvas. What’s the meaning behind them? The interpretation is up to you, but Amy always seems to be critiquing pop culture with its own visual vernacular and playing fast and loose with our ambiguous use of language.

  13. List

    The Dutch/Brazilian artist Rafaël Rozendaal is best known for his digital artworks that often take the form of webpages but as he told us at our 2013 creative symposium Here he is increasingly interested in exploring his fascination with light and colour in real-world scenarios. Most recently this has taken the form of his hyper-colourful abstract lenticular paintings, which are made up of layers of different frames and so appear to move when viewed from different angles.