Past and Future Presented All at Once

Interview with Jeff Hemming on the occasion of his solo exhibition Location, Location, Location at KALEID during the month of February 2013. Interview conducted by Donny Foley.

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Jeff Hemming in his studio

KALEID:
When did you realize that art was your passion and not just a hobby or interest? Was there a particular instance or situation?

Jeff:
There was a time. November 2002. I had recently graduated from college, BFA. ..and was still working at Domino’s Pizza. when they made me twirl a sign on Kam HWY that said “Wacky Wednesday,” I knew i had to make some changes. (this was before sign twirling had developed into an art form) I got rid of everything distracting in my life. Sold a crappy car and quit my pizza job (although i did miss free pizza) Most of my friends had left the island so I really had no choice but to make art. I was always drawing and painting and at this point, I started getting serious about it.

KALEID:
What is the most challenging part for you when creating a new painting?

Jeff:
I think the challenge for any art is making or doing something meaningful. Both meaningful to myself and to the viewer. Aside from the formalities like color and composition, it’s much more important for work to be relevant in some fashion whether it is through some autobiographical concept, or narrative. You have to allow the viewer to enter the work, and in my opinion, try and keep them looking for as long as possible.


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City Center, oil on canvas, 58″ x 78″

KALEID:
I notice in some of your work you have bits of surf references. Is it safe to say you surf? If so how does that influence your art?

Jeff:
Surf bits…yes. I began surfing in Santa Cruz in high school. I mentioned I lived in Hawaii too, plenty of waves there. Surfing did push through to the creative process though. I began shaping my own boards and making my own fins, playing with board design and shapes. I got pretty involved with surf art and the surfing industry while i was in Hawaii. This is where my art started wanting to make a change. Most surf art in Hawaii only captures one side of an idyllic story and had become heavily kitschified, I simply wanted to represent a bigger picture. I wanted to represent environmental issues, how quickly places can change, cultural issues, the origins and entropy of our surroundings.

KALEID:
Some of your pieces I feel as though you’re showing us a world we’re creating with our “throw it away/ build over it” society. Am I pretty far off on that one?

Jeff:
Nope, right on. At least now some of the stuff is being used to build stuff again. but damn, there are a lot of malls all over the place. I guess here I don’t really blame the big industry people, it’s always easy to point fingers at them. Instead I feel like the only reason they keep building stuff is because we keep buying all their junk, use it for a season, and have to get more. I think we get bored of things fast now.

KALEID:
When you’re painting and you’re in the zone, totally fixated on a piece, what’s going on in the “Jeff Hemming Head”?

Jeff:
Well sometimes it’s random stuff like: ¬†“what was the name of the guy who played Larry on Perfect Strangers? Mark Lyn Baker, that’s right, that’s right…” but when I’m really focused I usually just stare at the dumb thing. They are never planned out completely. so I work a bit, then I back off and stare at it for a bit. Then make some changes, the process becomes some what responsive. If I’m really in the “zone” I start having conversations with my colors. Sometimes I’ll get pissed and throw junk…but not often. usually every painting i do at some point i start asking myself “why the hell am I still doing this after all these years, there has GOT to be something better to do…” But I keep working and it usually get to a point where a bad painting becomes good.

KALEID:
When you worked at Dominos (now I’m craving pizza, thanks) did you used to draw on the boxes or leave little pieces of art for the customers to find?

Jeff:
HA…No but one time someone bought a painting from me and I delivered their pizza the next week…that was a bit weird because I was trying to keep both those things separate.


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Provincial¬†Survey, oil on canvas, 50″ x 60″

KALEID:
What message do you want your viewers to take away with them after spending time with your art?

Jeff:
The message is always different. Different people have told me they see different things. I try to include things that keep people from just reading it once and moving on. For example, they might see some mangled contraption over-taking a landscape, but at the same time there may be some gnarley tree thing taking over the machine. They are more a reflection of our reality, both past and future presented all at once.

KALEID:
What is your favorite part of your current solo show here at KALEID?

Jeff:
I dig the color i got out of them. In “Only an Island Knows” I applied the Old Holland schevenigen blue almost directly to the canvas without hacking it down with any other color.

View available art work by Jeff here.

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