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Black Mustard

February 2014

issue #3

the art of the interview


Talking to artists about why they make what they make leads us towards a greater understanding of what it is to be human.


Jude Hart (b. 1973)

Jude Hart lives and works in Brighton. She is an instinctive colorist, whose interest in mark-making and relative space has evolved into a particular abstract style. She is content to live with a greyness of meaning. “Life is uncertain,” she says. “If there is no ‘solution’ to life, why should there be one for art?” Her only intention is to keep following her heart in pursuit of the nature of color.

interview with Jude Hart

I don’t mind not knowing Black Mustard: Your work is abstract. It’s your creation, made real by you. There are no points of reference for other people. There are no vases, or trees, or buildings. There are only colors, shapes and lines. How do people react to your work? What kind of questions do they ask you? Jude Hart: There are two different kinds of people. There are people who are comfortable with just feeling and they enjoy looking and having a reaction, an experience. And then there are those who want to know what it’s about and what it’s made of. They don’t understand and they want to find out a bit more. I find it really hard to talk about my work because it’s hard to distance myself and I genuinely don’t understand what it is they can’t see so I don’t know what it is they need to know! I answer their questions as well as I can. For myself, I am quite happy with the greyness of meaning. But other people are unsure. For me, life isn’t certain. There isn’t one meaning and a solution to life so why should there be one for art. Why has it always got to be laid out for you in an answer? BM: You sound confident about ‘not knowing’… JH: Confident? No. I don’t know what it is or where I’m going but I am familiar with that and I sit quite happily within it. I don’t worry about not knowing. BM: How do you translate the not knowing to your children? JH: We have two children. Chris and I are good role models. That’s all we can be.


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BM: What is a good role model? JH: Someone who has the strength to offer up their values and boundaries but then also lets you become who you are and who you need to be. Someone who keeps you safe and nurtured and tells you what they experience. I do have particular values, like treating everyone with respect, regardless of race, intelligence or where they come from. You may be better at something than them but it doesn’t mean you are better. I say that to my children. You may be a better footballer but that doesn’t mean you are a better human being. BM Let’s talk about the process of making your paintings… JH: It’s slow. It’s a dialogue. The work is dead before my eyes if I rush it. I am hoping that the more I do it, then maybe I will learn to be quicker! I have only been concentrating in this way for six years. Jane Campion, the writer and film maker [The Piano, Bright Star], said in the early days she would sit there for four hours before she’d write anything down. I relate to her process. It is similar to the way that I work. I sit in front of a piece of work and at some point I decide what I am going to do and at that moment I am engaged. I make one mark and then I sit and wait until I decide to do something else. And the slow thing begins. It’s like when you wait during silence in a conversation or you wait for the next move when you are painting – that process brings the right thing or word forward. I am not afraid to wait in silence. I am not someone who needs to jump in and fill the gaps. If you wait, the decisions you make are interesting.

The Aftermath of Ever After, 2013

interview with Jude Hart


Welcome To The Sensation, 2011

BM: Can you define what is ‘interesting’ to you? JH: When I start a piece of work, I begin just wondering what it would look like if I tried to make something a bit like that. Do you understand? It’s just wondering. If you want something more concrete, things that I see outside do come back into this work, though not in a studied, conscious way. I allow myself to pick up informa-


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tion outside of here and then it comes out again in the studio. For instance, I was introduced to this idea of mindfulness recently. Like Buddhism. Living in the present. Not worrying about the future or being held up by the past. This past year has been an important year in terms of stuff that was going on, not all easy stuff, and what was happening outside the studio fed into my work. So now I am trying to create this

The Aftermath of Things, 2010

centralized form, which represents the present. I have been running along the Brighton seafront a lot in the past year. I have created this structural form perhaps from experiencing the long linear lines along the Victorian ironwork and lamp posts along the promenade, a huge number of linear lines. I started to imagine this shape having a past and a future going off into the left and right, and then the central curve being in this

present. I want the viewer to be in that moment too. It is not about just flitting past an image. I want them to stand in front of my work and absorb it over time. BM: There are many crosses in the work‌ JH: Prior to this interview I was pondering why on earth I wanted to make these crosses. I recognize that in my child-

interview with Jude Hart


Curved (ii), 2012


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JH: I measure with a ruler. I like measuring. I like an element of that. I like the contradiction between the quite measured space and the stuff that doesn’t make much sense within it. It is exciting to be able to get bigger because then I have a larger area to deal with. It will be possible to be more free with the marks and movement as the work is larger.

JH: I think through experience that I thought it didn’t matter where you worked. But I recently moved from the fairly dark basement studio of my home in Kemptown, which is in the heart of the city. Now I have light, space, literally, and trees and sky and the space in the studio to move around the room, and around each piece. Space makes a difference to the way in which you react to the work. In small spaces you create (or I create at least) small, controlled work. I remember Jesse, an artist also, a friend of mine. He had a space like this in Cornwall and worked on a big scale and then he moved into the studio next to me in Brighton – it was the only space he could get - and his work became really small. Now in this bigger space, my work is growing physically in size and also in terms of its movement. The marks I make are becoming freer. There’s another very noticeable difference, I think, which may have fed the change in my work. It’s more of a female thing. Working in a domestic space and working outside the home feel very different. The woman who is in charge of the household has a stronger voice. Now I’m here, this is what I do. At home I would load the dishwasher, hang out the clothes to dry. I am more vulnerable in the studio. I recognize that there is a loss of feeling comfortable and in charge. Though of course what happens over time is that a new studio starts to feel like home. I have only been here eight weeks and I am beginning to grow into the space. The transition has taken place during a period of personal strain too. People who I care about have been going through hard times or have caused me concern. BM: Do you fight between the two opposing forces? Your work and your urge to be there for others?

BM: You work in a sun-filled studio in an old manor in Portslade, Brighton. Does location matter for your work?

JH: I fight all the time, of course. I fluctuate between the two forces massively. I really have to focus on my work to even get

hood, I went to Catholic mass in church every Sunday. So I was sitting in this space for a long period every week. An hour or more. Somebody was talking but I had no understanding of what they were saying. You sit and you stare at the altar – it is symmetrical, with a cross at the centre. I always want to put a cross in the middle of my work. Is it the cross that says go away, no entry, or is it the religious cross? BM: So you’re a Catholic. Faith for you means what? JH: I think it’s really important for some people. They need it and it does a really good job. My mum brought me up as a Catholic. My Catholicism - I can’t get away from it. It was internalized. I recognize that. But I do not believe myself. I am not a practicing Catholic. My reproduction of this cross is therefore interesting to me. I think that there is this level at which the brain functions where there is no control from me. I find that thrilling. There is control in my work though. I play with that structure. It’s defined and its made in a certain way. Within the structure I then let it flow. I do have plans to remove that structure, to be truly formless, so watch this space! BM: While we still have structure and formality in your work, let’s talk about it…

interview with Jude Hart


here. But self-expression is important. You express yourself because you’ve explored yourself. When you explore the tricky, nasty, gooey stuff inside, you are much more open and understanding of everyone else. I think that makes for a better world. The artistic process is important. I don’t think everyone can be a ‘successful’ artist but I think that everyone is creative. Females work or create from what they are. That’s what I do, certainly. It can be perceived as criticism to say that,

but women do reference their own lives. I don’t want to separate the two out. I mean the art and my other life – my family, friendships and place in the world. I think it’s naturally related. I weave what I’ve learnt about human nature into forms. Tracey Emin’s bed, for example, was an expression of herself. She existed within the work and she’s had stick for that - for exposing herself. But I think that’s what women do. Women sing about failed relationships. It is important to them. Male creativity is

What Lies In a Curve (ii), 2012


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by its nature less personal, it seems. It is more about commenting on the universe, rather than commenting on the self. BM: So do artists not need to be selfish? JH: What is a selfish artist? Someone who doesn’t hear other people’s needs? But I think, “What is life about if it’s not about your friendships and your family?” Of course you must go and see a friend who is struggling. I am always accessible and available. I am definitely an artist but I

am definitely the mother and the friend. But on the other hand I do love the idea of Virginia Woolf ‘killing the angel in the house’. She said something like, “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.” She wrote a speech made to young professional women, borrowing the phantom of the ‘perfect woman’ [described in Coventry Patmore’s Victorian poem (1854) celebrating domestic bliss]. It’s this nineteen-century idea of the perfect wife, mother, the one who made every-

What Lies In a Curve (viii), 2013

interview with Jude Hart


Aftermath, 2014


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thing beautiful, ate less meat so the men of the house could have more. She put other people and their feelings before her own. And Virginia Woolf killed her! I love that. Woolf was fighting against the expectation of what a woman in her position should say and write. I do not underestimate the fight to be creative. You need to erase those voices in your head in order to work. It’s a struggle, but am I really going to make organic bread for my family every day? BM: Where does your understanding of art come from? JH: My family was not visual in any way. When I think of the way in which I grew up – in Manchester and then in Berkshire – there was no reference to art whatsoever. It is the opposite of that idea that I was nurtured, through looking at paintings or being taken to galleries. There was a drought of any art or literature or theatre. There was nothing at all like that. BM: So you have a natural affinity then? All yours… JH: From the time when you think about these things I wanted to be an artist. I was very happy at school. I always did well on the academic side but without much interest. I am one of five – the middle child – and my whole family studied maths and science. All my brothers are computer programmers and my sister is a maths teacher. I thought that’s what I was for a long time. A scientist. I did A levels in science – maths and physics - but I snuck in some art. I also studied English literature. I applied for a Foundation degree. I also applied to study law and psychology at university. I got onto both courses, but chose the art foundation. There was no pressure from my parents. They were very easy going. They wanted me to do something I enjoyed, though what they secretly felt, I’m not sure. On my foundation I started painting then moved into

textiles and material. Simply because I found it interesting. From there I moved on to do a degree in Textile Art at Goldsmith’s College in London. BM: How do you overcome self- doubt and start work each morning? JH: I have a fear of how I would feel if I didn’t do it. That fear is more frightening than the worry that I might be wasting my life or not doing the right thing. BM: It’s an isolated life. You get the kids to school and then you come here to this empty space, alone… JH: I’ve always been outside of a big, shared studio because if I were in there I would be helping with other people’s problems. I would be too distracted by the other people. I am not good at talking about my own problems, though. When I’m working I just like to be really quite and engaged and absorbed. I see it as a job, because when I’m tired I keep going. Because I do it when I don’t feel like it and sometimes I don’t enjoy myself. It’s not some kind of romantic ideal of being a painter. The reality is that it’s hard. When things aren’t going well it’s difficult. BM: How do you deal with criticism? JH: The teaching process at art school is built around regular critique. You become used to it. It’s a way of working. They say negative things in order to help you. They ‘crit’ your piece and then you progress. As a result, I mostly don’t care if someone doesn’t like one of my paintings. But I also don’t get excited if they say they love it. I am more interested in hearing why people like or dislike my work for a particular set of reasons. There is one I don’t like - a classic one for my kind of abstract work - and it’s ‘anyone could do that.’ I say to them, “You walk in my shoes and see what it’s like for you”.

interview with Jude Hart


What lies in a curve (ix), 2013


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interview with Jude Hart


BM: Can you imagine a world without art? JH: I don’t believe there is one. If you could take away everything that falls under the label of art, human beings would create another way of expressing themselves. I think there is always going to be art in one shape or another. BM: What is your greatest achievement so far as an artist? JH: Not giving up. Keeping on going. The dogs are barking and I am going on in the face of it all. I have supportive friends around me. Brighton is full of creative people. My friendship group is full of creative people. I have been quite isolated, it’s true. Trying to be an artist and a full time mother makes you very busy. But I try to talk to other artists as much as I can. My friend Dylan, a painter, and Tash who is a photographer. We are similar in that we understand what each other is saying. It’s accepted amongst the people I know that being an artist is an okay way to spend your life. BM: Your early spot paintings have been likened to Damien Hirst’s. What do you say to that? JH: I have stopped making that kind of work. It’s embarrassing to say but when people started making that comparison, I didn’t know what they were talking about. I looked his paintings up and I thought, shit, I’ve got to move on. The work I was doing was putting one colour next to another colour to learn what that would do. I was trying to find a way into it. Into colour and into painting. I am on my way now. BM: Which other artists do you admire? JH: I love the work of Cy Twombly. For me, it’s visual poetry. It seems really free but it’s also about balance and marks and blobs and scrapes and colour. BM: You are industrious. You get the children to school and then you work


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here until pick up time. You work on several pictures at the same time… JH: Sometimes there’s a deadline – that might be a motivation. Sometimes I might have learnt something on another piece and then I will want to translate that into the new piece. I like having loads of things going on. Sometimes you send out all your pieces at once and that’s really sad. It’s really important to take pictures of your work. If you didn’t have the picture o f it, it would be devastating. I use the old pivotal pieces to inform the work that I am doing now. My pictures used to be made just with my fingers. But more recently I am treating layers of the painting differently. I use pencil and brushwork and then add a layer of finger marks over the top. Another layer will sit right out. I make that using sharped-edged masked off colour. I’m interested from a formal perspective. I want to create these clouds of marks that have form. Part of my job is to understand how to create these shapes that have a sense of depth. One of my goals is to get really good at that. That will allow me to make shapes that will sit within a space and are quite complicated. I am trying to figure out my language. As I said, I do a lot of sitting around listening and waiting for something to happen. All my experiences outside the studio feed into the pot. Though I didn’t grow up doing it, I do realize that I that going to galleries is important. I’ve just been to New York. The visit generated a lot of ideas and enthusiasm for coming back and working. On the ride to school today, I was looking at the line of lamp posts, in shades of grey as each lamp post descended into the distance. The one nearest to me was really white. If I’d painted it that way, it would look really wrong. Usually, the contrast becomes less in the distance, so it was interesting to me to see what was really happening to the grey. It’s important to look at things outside your work. I get amazing joy from playing round with colour. Putting certain colours next

Repetion Is On You, 2010

to each other really excites me. You can create moods with the colours you use. I am trying to use colour - I look at a dusky pink and and orangey yellow, and ask, how do they relate? But also I want to create several lines of colour that then begin to recede from the eye and still make sense. So that they all look like they are of the same material or the same body and sit differently in space. But they don’t say together, ‘I

am a fence’. If you look at a building in perspective, it’s bigger at one end and smaller at the other. But my structure is more ambiguous and less referenced. It has to say the same thing – perspective more clearly, precisely because it is not a building or a fence. One of the things about abstract art is that you have to say it clearly otherwise it gets lost. It’s all internalized. To talk about it in a clear way is really hard,

interview with Jude Hart


because there are no reference points. You look at me and you see blonde hair and my legs in black trousers and this studio and you form a picture out of the reference points. Without the reference points, what is it? That’s what I am asking. What is pink? What is blue? What does it mean without looking at it as an ice cream or a sky?

BM: Let’s talk for a moment about those marks you make… JH: Mark making. I relate to things that have less form, and always have. It’s a contemplation of things in space. I want to see how shapes react to each other. Whether they sit forwards or back. I want to know how to change the colour so that

The Sun Rises (ii), 2013


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a red sits behind another kind of red. BM: Does being an artist make sense to you? JH: I’ve sat alone in a room doing what I am doing for six years and having that time makes you develop and hone your method of working. Along with that I’ve grown up and experienced grown up shit and that

comes into the picture too. I am forty. I know who I am and I’m comfortable. It’s great. Not that I don’t worry about all the stuff that everyone worries about. It’s just that I realize that this is all I can ask of myself. I am an artist. And you’ve got to keep going to the studio and keep doing it. I don’t think you can just magic it up.

Be Present In The Moment, 2014

interview with Jude Hart


“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves.� Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (1903)

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Black Mustard: interview with Jude Hart  
Black Mustard: interview with Jude Hart  

Jude Hart lives and works in Brighton. She is an instinctive colorist, whose interest in mark-making and relative space has evolved into a p...