IN THE FIELD WITH LORI ZIMMER
SIX OF ONE: Six Quick Questions with One of My Favorite Artists
British-born Jon Burgerman recently made the reluctant move to Brooklyn from Nottingham, England. His doodles and drawings can be found all over–from paintings to caps, shirts and toys, blank wall paper (for you to color yourself), posters at IKEA, down to our placemats when we meet for veggie lunches. When he isn’t drawing (rare), he can be found performing alongside Jim Avignon in their high powered arty band Anxieteam (in which they sing about making salads, and create new murals for each set), or complaining about the lack of decent croissants in this city.
This summer, Jon launches a new series of caps for New Era, will speak at the OFFF Festival in Barcelona and Flash On The Beach 2011 in Brighton, UK, and have a new commission featured in Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V& A Museum Exhibition at Nottingham Castle Museum.
1. What are you currently obsessed with?
For some reason I am currently obsessed with drawing peoples faces. People I don’t know and have never met. In my work I rarely ever draw ‘proper people,’ but now I feel compelled to. It started by acquiring a set of watercolor paints. I’d never painted with watercolors before and was just messing about with them whilst I sat at my computer. As I idled through Facebook I saw a photo of my old friend Greg from Nottingham. His face was a big ball of fluffy orange cotton wool. Hurriedly I jotted him down in paint on some paper. The taste for flesh (or at least depicting it–I’m a vegetarian) took hold and I started to scour Facebook for more victims. You must know this about me, that I’m a very lazy guy. After a few minutes of looking for decent enough faces to draw on Facebook–you’d think there’d be loads–I was tired and bored.
I decided to get the people of Facebook to send me their faces directly, thus saving me time searching for them. I created a group, posted it on my wall, and now the beautiful and the gormless, the pretty and the plain, the ugly and the unique are at my grubby fingertips.
So now when I’m meant to be working and find myself cruising Facebook for some sort of entertainment I do a few portraits from the pool of people in the group. There’s no guarantee of being drawn and I make it very clear I might do a bad job and so far everyone seems to like it. Not that I’m doing it for anyone other than myself. I just really enjoy it.
Painting people on Facebook is nothing new, of course, that’s not the point. It’s super fun and it’s kind of liberating to post up bad pieces of work. Work that’s unrelated to my usual practice, that no-one has any expectation of and that gives one a good excuse to ogle the masses with my meandering eyeballs.
2. Describe your work in three words
Best. Work. Ever.
3. What are your favorite recent exhibitions?
I enjoyed the Bye-Bye Kitty!!! show at the Japan society recently. It was good to see contemporary Japanese works that move beyond our clichéd westernized view of Japanese culture; cartoon cuteness and strange sexy fetishes. Though it must be said the exhibition did feature these things in varying degrees. The show at graphite in Williamsburg at the moment features some haunting photos of various animals by Yoko Naito which I enjoyed looking at. At Factory Fresh in Brooklyn, UK artist Sweet Toof is showing some new paintings embedded with glitter and gold. The paintings themselves are sort of ugly and have a newspaper cartoon quality to them, as if from the Victorian era, that’s pretty cool.
4. What is your favorite place and why?
Duh–my bed is my favorite place. What a silly question! It’s offers protection, refuge, immunity and comfort from everyone and everything (and is a great place to scoff donuts).
When I moved over here–late last year, from the UK–I truly felt bedless and therefore, homeless. My old bed was gone and the new bed I eventually found was strange and foreign to me. It’s important to have a place where you’re completely comfortable and relaxed and can recharge. When I slip in under the duvet after a period of traveling or just being out all night I feel like I’m a little iPod being tucked into its dock, ready to be powered up again for the next time I’m needed.
5. What is your go to karaoke song?
I don’t have one. I went to Korea town for some karaoke fun a few months ago and had the embarrassment of the whole room screaming “Skip! Skip!” midway through my strangled performance of Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. My Little Bird House In Your Soul by They Might Be Giants fared marginally better as I was actually allowed to reach the end of the song before having the microphone snatched out of my paw and being banished to the corner for bad crooning.
6. What book has most influenced you?
It’s tough to gauge the influence of a single book on my life. I don’t really feel influenced by stuff directly. I like a lot of things, but never find myself purposely trying to impart some influence from that thing–be it a book, movie, exhibition, etc. Remember, I’m lazy, I let the influence of things slowly defuse into my brain like a tea bag in a mug of boiling water.
That said, I loved Catch-22 and its back-and-forth, inside-and-out, up-and-down logic and narrative. I was also fond of Rolf Harris’ how to draw cartoons book when I was a child.
Jon Burgerman is a British cartoony artist currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. His artwork can be found in galleries, shops and on walls world wide.
Jon Burgerman by Lori Zimmer
Written by Lori Zimmer
Photography Courtesy of Jon Burgerman
Design by Jillian Mercado
Portrait of Jon Burgerman, Nottingham, 2010, Photography by Jo Irvine
Artwork by Jon Burgerman
Facebook Faces Art Project by Jon Burgerman