Jason Penney has been living and working in Newfoundland since 2004. He moved back to St. John’s after completing his BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Having shown and exhibited his work throughout Canada and the UK. He is currently working on obtaining his MFA from the Edinburgh College of Art; he is studying topics pertaining to fantasy, virtual realities, and the social and political issues that relate to them. Using tools as objects of play he explores these topics and tries to assert himself inside of them so that he can both better understand and integrate them into his daily life and surroundings.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become an artist?
I am not sure when I first realized I wanted to become an artist, nor am I certain when I became an artist. My understanding of what an artist or at least me as an artist is, is a person who explores, responds and problem solves. Though this loose definition changes everyday as does my relationship between it.
What mediums do you work in and why?
Primarily with fabric, but this is not an exclusive relationship. I use the tools that solve, transform or at least can represent my problems; I find that textiles are very adaptable to this means. I use things that I can gather from around me, find abandoned, or can readily collect. I like to think of it as a means of becoming aware of my surroundings through gathering. Through this gained awareness I can create new objects, tools or activities.
How do you get ideas for your artwork?
Currently I am researching online virtual worlds, science fiction, and fan fictions. I am looking at these all as a means to see how people use fantasy to deal with cultural political problems. By addressing imaginary problems I am hoping that I then create awareness of the inspirations of these ‘fake’ scenarios.
What other artists influence your artwork?
Cao Fei, Ben Guy Ner, William Morris, Coco Fusco.
What are the ‘big’ themes in your artwork?
I am not sure if they are themes or methodologies. But my daily life seems to be the source, and fantasy and social issues seem to be the focus. My life brings my materials, processes and interests together to leave me with what I would consider art objects.
What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist working in Newfoundland and Labrador?
I think that the greatest challenge is being separated. Either separated from external influences or when abroad separated from what was left behind. It sometimes feels like limbo, but in the end perhaps that is also rewarding as it creates a certain level of focus and drive that can’t be eased when either home in Newfoundland or temporarily abroad. You always have to work on staying in touch with both sides.
What is the best thing about working as an artist in this province?
The same as above. I think it makes you always want to keep working for something to change or move, but you always have to keep focused on not dropping things.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Working at my desk or typing in my kitchen.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
I have no idea, I don’t think people get to make those decisions or even fathom it.
If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
I want a warehouse/large building and the amount of money it would take to maintain and operate it.