PROFILE: JD REFORMA
When it comes to the art scene generally the biggest pull an exhibition opening has is the promise of free alcohol and food.
So when I see a poster and read the name JD REFORMA written in a lovely new font, believe me when I say the free alcohol will be second thing to get you inside the gallery doors.
Sometimes art can be boring, and don’t you judge me because you know it too, you walk about looking at some things and it can be dull. You drag your feet around, quickly down a few wines and then escape as quick as can be. So why am I bringing this up? For the reason that I finally found an artist that doesn’t send me into a conceptual art coma. He makes work that I genuinely want to investigate, walk around and [when I have a little more dough] buy.
HELLO JD, CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BACKGROUND ABOUT YOURSELF?
Hey Macarena! I went to the College of Fine Arts for four years, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in sculpture, performance and installation. I undertook my Honours research last year.
I grew up and live in the outer-western suburbs of Sydney. I think it’s this distance that has allowed me to retain a vague sense of sanity. It also informs the broader, conceptual underpinning of my practice thus far: works which engage with aspects of suburbia/the domestic/the bourgeoisie – but not in a Sam Mendes-ian “domestic discontent” way, if you know what I mean.
WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED INTO ART AND MORE SPECIFICALLY THE ART THAT YOU CREATE?
I don’t know exactly. I did win a colouring-in contest when I was in kindergarten for a rainbow-coloured bookworm, which made me feel very proud and useful. Childhood’s great because you don’t really (or I didn’t) feel any shame about being competitive or winning trivial things like stickers and certificates. That shame mainly came about when I realised that in order to maintain a useful presence as an artist, I had to acknowledge that it is much more interesting (and rewarding) to create within a community, even if that community is just a few very close friends.
In terms of my work, my answer is nothing more interesting or complex than: I have a particular point of view, and I have the desire and the means to communicate it.
HOW CONCIOUS ARE YOU OF THE POSSIBLE SPACES YOUR WORK WILL BE EXHIBITED WHEN YOU ARE CREATING IT?
I’m not ashamed to say that most of my work is fairly non-resistant to the white box gallery. I’m kind of interested in actively engaging the modes of display that characterise traditional gallery architecture – namely plinths, shelves and hooks – and inverting them slightly by re-emphasising their utilitarianism.
Instructing people on the installation of artworks can feel a bit like bringing home a readymade from IKEA: there are no instructions and it’s obvious that all you have to do is take the plastic off – but because its from flat-pack nirvana, it can feel like you’re not doing enough. Producing sculptures with custom plinths saves everybody time. J.D. Reforma: taking the guesswork out of installing art.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF YOUR WORK AND TELL US THE IDEAS BEHIND IT?
This work is called S/N/E/W (Lost in Paradigm). The title refers to the points on a compass in reverse order, which describes the movement occurring in the piece: South to North, and East to West. The images are sourced from an unknown ‘artist’s impression’ of five ‘themed’ façade designs of the same model house available to prospective homebuilders. It’s also the house that I live in. ‘Artist’s impression’ images are really interesting because they can retain ambiguity despite being necessarily prescriptive – notice the palm trees in the backyard, the gum trees in the front, and the manicured English hedges? For me, these images are the aesthetic equivalent of casinos, so I figured that the computer-solitaire victory-sequence was an appropriate format for them. But I don’t necessarily think that this is negative – images that suffer from identity-crises can be the most interesting to dissect. I wanted to express this yearning for paradise, which in occidental suburbia is often simply translated as a tropical motif, hence: paradise/paradigm.
IS THERE A CERTAIN TYPE OF ART LOOK OR THEME THAT YOU TRY TO AVOID OR SOMETHING THAT PARTICULARLY IRKS YOU WHEN YOU SEE IT?
I’ll never avoid anything completely, because I like to have all points of view.
I am irked by a lot of things, but it’s difficult to articulate how much they irk me because compromise is a necessary part of maintaining any community. As an artist, I can’t really comment specifically on that because it would be like painting a big red target on my forehead. I can’t disavow someone the right to like one thing just because I don’t – people that are genuinely interested in art will be able to tell the difference for themselves.
If there are aspects of a particular artwork/style that people don’t like, then I encourage them to treat it like a pimple – ignore it for long enough, and it should go away. You can’t just go around popping zits as you see them because you’ll end up with a big mess and a swollen face.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE ART SPACES IN SYDNEY/THE WORLD?
I don’t really have any. But my favourite shows in 2009/2010 have actually all been held in regional and outer-western Sydney institutions. Blacktown Arts Centre, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Casula Powerhouse, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Parramatta Artists’ Studios are ones that I have been able to visit in the past 12 months, and I really loved what I saw.
HOW DO THINK THE SYDNEY ART SCENE IS DOING AT THE MOMENT AND DO YOU THINK IT IS POSSIBLE TO MAKE A LIVING IN IT AS IT IS?
I enjoy art in Sydney as much as I can. By that I mean, as with anything, there are highs and lows and I just try and maintain a strong filter and encourage the good things rather than criticise the bad.
It’s unfortunate that there are so many people that believe that the only way to engage with art/artists is to cultivate an interest in their supposed market value.
There are so many un-savvy collectors and unscrupulous artists – it can be depressing to see some of the kinds of art that sells. If I make money from my work, great! If I don’t, well I’m not a proud person and whatever pays the bills, pays the bills. As it is, I don’t think I’ll be able to make ‘a living’ out of it because I don’t know how to make forty-two paintings of the same thing from different angles in different colours and sizes.
HOW DO YOU THINK THE ART SCENE COULD BE IMPROVED?
There’s not much that can’t be improved by good education. I don’t mean that I think that everybody should go to art school and become an artist – a world full of artists would suck in the extreme. If people at all levels of study were taught to understand visual language as well as spoken/written language, the arts could be a much more interesting thing to engage with. Having said that, this process should also be reciprocal, and my favourite artists are also effective and intelligent communicators. But, like I said, I’m a pretty positive person – I’m not one to sit around complaining about overarching biennale-themes. Celebration is just as important as constructive critique – if not more so.
AND LASTLY, WHAT DOES JD REFORMA HAVE COMING UP IN THE FUTURE?
Two concurrent group exhibitions: Pulp @ The Paper Mill in the Sydney CBD and Black Sheep @ Hardware Gallery. There are artists’ talks for the Pulp exhibition on the 30th of September @ The Paper Mill, and I encourage everyone to attend!
I’ve also successfully applied as a Guest Curator at Gaffa Gallery, an artist-run initiative situated in the Sydney CBD, which will take place from January –June 2011. I can’t begin to describe how great an opportunity this is going to be.
I’ve also been eager for the past two years to collaborate on a project with one of my favourite artists, Giselle Stanborough, and I’m finally going to be able to do it! We’ve gotten my sister, Annabelle on board to help us and we can’t wait to be able to exhibit that work in May.
And after the most exhausting two months of my life, I’m finally able to start on a new body-of-work for a show at Somedays Gallery in Surry Hills around March 2011. The show is about celebration! Hope to see you there!