In just over a week, Ocean Studios will be opening Jock Mooney’s ‘Who Are You & What Do You Want?’ to the public. Mooney presents a vivid medley of work, which dances between vibrantly playful and unapologetically personal. We caught up with the artist to find out more about his show before it opens on 24th September…
Can you explain a little about your artistic practice and how ‘Who Are You and What Do You Want?’ came about?
I work in a variety of mediums and methods – I studied sculpture, but I’d say I’m a ‘drawer and a multimedia artist’. For me, everything starts from drawing. One thing feeds another and I probably get bored rather quickly, so being able to explore something in a sculpture one day or a song the next is very refreshing. I was very struck by a quote i think Otto Dix said (on being questioned about his highly different styles) where he described himself as an artist – not an actor typecast into one role. I think people very often pigeon hole themselves into doing just one thing, and there’s no reason to put that sort of limitation on yourself. You can be a maths teacher and also be in a death metal band.
The exhibition includes new territory for you as an artist, such as fabric design. How did it feel working with new mediums for the exhibition?
I’ve always been interested in the idea of looking into textiles. I was also looking for some ‘alternative’ plinths for showing things on. On seeing how the fabric worked out, like a strange mix of picnic rugs and 1980s childrens’ duvets scattered across the floor in some sort of ‘den’ manner, I was very taken with them as things in their own right rather than just props for a ‘more important’ sculpture. Exploring new ways of working is really important for me – without challenging yourself in that way you don’t discover anything new. It is also a boredom avoidance tactic.
What draws you to the imagery recurring in the exhibition, such as the double-headed figure of Janus?
I was very interested in procrastination, and regret. Wondering what could have been and being uncertain and ill at ease about the future. I wanted to try and put a very positive, almost celebratory spin on this anxiety. I was also very keen to create a sort of ‘festival’ display of sorts. Images with negative connotations are also nicely juxtaposed with very garish repeated imagery – such as Bonnie Tyler fabric. I suppose that could be viewed as a kind of FM sheen hovering over the turbulence underneath. Or it could just be because I like Bonnie Tyler.
The show itself comes out of a very personal place. Do you find creating artwork a therapeutic process?
It can be. I think the main thing is to actually enjoy what you do. In the past I have made works that I felt I should make, or just made of the sake of it. Forcing that kind of creative process is never going to be particularly rewarding. Making hundreds of pompoms by hand was certainly a way to pass the time in the evenings – pompoms and Prisoner Cell Block H is a good combination.
Following that, is it ever difficult to move your artwork into a public space and offer it out to a subjective audience?
Yes and no. In an egotistical sense I of course want to be loved and everyone to gush about how amazing the show is. I do like to please an audience, and I’m very aware of an art exhibition being a public thing. You cannot please everyone though – all I am doing here is sharing some of my observations and inviting others to see a connection, or to just look at it for a few minutes. I’m not precious about it at all. Some people will love my work and some people will hate it. It’s made me happy and I think it will make some other people happy. That’s pretty simple, but I don’t feel the need to dress it up as anything else. In terms of also moving forward as an artist it is really important to have a kind of ‘end point’ for a period of work.
I believe Mexico also worked as inspiration in part. What about the country struck you and how did it impact your work?
The positivity of it. The way that ‘Day of the Dead’ is such a colourful and joyous event rather than a sombre and depressing one. There’s a vibrancy that runs through the place, and an honesty to it. I wanted to channel some of this fun into the show and that’s where the pompoms come from. I loved the marigolds used in the Day of the Dead displays, so I set about creating something with a similar feel and volume to weave around the works.
Finally, what experience do you hope visitors to the exhibition will have?
Fun. I think the country is in a dire state at the moment and frankly people sometimes forget that you are allowed to have fun. There are layers to this work – if you ask me for more detail about a particular work I will gladly provide it, but I also am keen for a viewer to not feel weighed down by a piece of paper when they are in an exhibition. Also, if they buy a drawing I’ll be happy.
‘Who Are You & What Do You Want?’ will be open to the public from 23rd September until 20th November 2016 at Ocean Studios, based in Plymouth’s Royal William Yard. Head over to our main site to find out more about us, and we hope to see you there!