Artist James Welch, designer of the MADhurst 2014 Programme Cover and Alison Procter, MADhurst Art Coordinator, had the pleasure of interviewing our Patron-Philip Jackson.
MADhurst wanted to create an opportunity for a young, up-and-coming artist to benefit from the wealth of experience of such a well known and established artist as Philip Jackson.
This is what we asked-
Sculpture had inspired Philip from the age of 11 when he bought his first book on sculpture from a second hand shop. Having parents that lived and worked abroad, Philip spent many holidays with elderly relatives, and found companionship in looking at books, particularly of Greco Roman figures.
His first sculpture book showed works by contemporary artists but had a relationship to the Greco Roman sculpture of ancient times. This is when the penny dropped for Philip, and he realised that sculpture was not a thing of the past, but was relevant for today. He became determined to go to art school to study further, but found this no easy task. Getting into art school proved difficult, but with the support and determination of his great aunt, he was accepted into Farnham Art School.
Looking at what kind a future his passion for sculpture would give him, he soon realised that in art, the lines of progression are not the same as in other professions. It appeared to him that you either went into teaching or you became unemployed! The ability to photograph work was a vital asset to a young sculptor’s career, and for a while Philip honed these skills as a free lance press photographer for an agency. He was encouraged by them to make pictorial stories which could then be sold to magazines. This work developed, and soon he was working for a studio. At was here that he got his first opportunity as a commercial sculptor. He did this for 14 years, eventually becoming the MD, before creating a company of his own.
By this time, Philip was selling work all over the world under his own company, but he eventually this changed into selling work under his own name, as we see today.
What was your first sculpture?
His first work was probably a figure fashioned out of wood when he was experimenting as a child. His great love is being a figurative sculptor. At art school, he tried various mediums, but came back to bronze castings from clay models, which gave him tremendous freedom to experiment. This was very different to sculpting in marble which requires the sourcing of specialist materials which are expensive and difficult to obtain.
What has been your greatest inspiration?
Philip creates two types of work:
- Public commissions, which require lasting appeal and resonance, and are made to satisfy someone else’s ideas.
- Gallery Sculptures- his own imaginative work. His main influences for these are music, opera, theatre and stories; and these are constantly changing.
Whilst working for the Studio, some sculptures were shipped out to Venice, and Philip was required to oversee the installation. Venice had a very powerful effect on Philip as he became fascinated with 17th and 18th Century Europe, the theatres, galleries, works of art and the Venetian way of life at that time- particularly the Masked Ball. He was intrigued by anonymity that the masks gave and the secrets they were hiding and how this was expressed in their body language. Later Philip was able to capture all this in a collection which he exhibited in the Casanova Gardens in Venice. Other collections have been inspired by an Ecclesiastical theme and Dance theme.
Philip was very clear that he was not interested in the shock value of creating something rude or obscene. He wants his pieces to encompass the beautiful, the elegant, the melancholy, the mysterious and the theatrical.
What feelings do you want your work to evoke?
Philip recognised that there was not just one audience, but that different people showed different responses. In the Venice exhibition, he was able to pick out a nationality by the reaction they showed to his work. For example, the Italians were quite lyrical, the British were reluctant to show their feelings and the Americans were very expressive.
He gives each piece a name, and this is the only guide that he gives the audience. It is up t them to use it as a stepping stone into their own interpretation.
Do you prefer to work on small or large Pieces?
Philip always prefers to work on large pieces. He took a commission to design a medal, and that proved to be the most troublesome of all!
How to you ensure you achieve Customer Satisfaction?
Philip explained how the process of Commissioned Art worked. Sometimes he is rung up by an architect, and a dialogue is started, or it could be part of a bid and he would have to present his ideas within the specified remit and budget.
The site would need to be closely looked at to see what ground work is required, what is the surrounding area like and if any external changes need to take places such as widening of pavements or shifting of lamp posts. Planning regulations and permissions also need to be closely followed. There are also the implications of unveiling...does it coincide with a special anniversary? are Royalty required? whose diaries need to be consulted? This is the first stage. He explained that when approached for the commission of Bomber Command, he turned it down twice as the time scales given, made it very tight for completion.
Philip will then conduct extensive research on the subject- reading and conducting interviews. For something as sensitive as the Bomber Command, Philip wanted to get everything as completely accurate as possible, even down to viewing the original uniforms from the RAF.
He is then ready to make a maquette- a small working model. This, he is able to show the client, use for scaling up, sometimes, by taking a cast, it can used by an organisation as a fund raising tool for the completed piece.
Once he has perfected the maquette, the full 9 foot clay model can be made. On completion of this part, all parties connected with the project are invited to view it.
From this, after the technical processes have taken place, a bronze cast is made.
Have you ever had a difficult Client?
By detailed preparation, potential issues can be dealt with before they become a problem. Monuments in central London come with their own inherent problems which can be exacerbated by the fact the person or organisation commissioning the piece, has usually not done so before and is completely unaware of all the factors that need to be considered before hand, and the time scales involved. In the case of Bomber Command, no application for planning had been made and a decision was reached to proceed with the sculpture, in order to meet the deadline, in anticipation of Planning Permission be granted. There are also opposing viewpoints of the way history is commemorated, with some people objecting to the emphasis on military battles. All these factors need to be considered.
How many pieces do you work on at a time?
Philip usually has 3 or 4 pieces on the go and works back and forth as deadlines approach.
How many people on your team?
Philip works on his own, and has assistance in the Gallery, for Mould Making and Administration.
Had you thought of diversifying to other subjects or mediums?
Each piece that Philips makes is part of a journey, and although different, has a relationship to the other pieces. Many years ago he work with Henry Moore, and learnt that the reason why he was so successful, and was collected across the globe, was that each piece were very recognisable as a “Henry Moore”. He reminisced that when Henry Moore was short of a piece for a show, and Philip suggested an earlier work to put in, Henry remarked that he couldn’t use it as it was very “Henry Moore”!
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
Don’t do it unless you are ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED. You will need talent, and to work extremely hard, and have a good business approach.
Unlike painting, which is relatively cheap to produce, quick to make and easy to store- for Philip to create enough work to make a 30 piece exhibition, he will need to work for 2-3 years or more to create the work. Each maquette will cost in the region of £1000 to make, and each full size bronze will cost in the region of £40,000. He will need to be guaranteed to sell work in order to finance the next piece of work.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
Be single minded and determined. In Philips experience, it has been a long, hard struggle and has required self motivation and self belief, with a large degree of business acumen.