It’s hard to keep up with Jeff Cox, his ideas and musings keep on coming. In his East London studio, surrounded by works for his current exhibition – ‘What Now?’ – at The Stone Space, Jeff takes me through some of the influences and inspirations for his coruscating and witty paintings.
Brought up in London in the fifties he always wanted to paint . At the time of leaving grammar school in the sixties art was not considered to be a viable option by either school or family so he studied economics at Southampton University and went on to become a teacher. But he was always painting and drawing, going to exhibitions, and reading books and magazines on art. He has shown his work in several small London galleries and was eventually able to devote himself fully to being an artist in 1999. Initially his work was figurative and he was an admirer of artists Stephen Campbell and R.B. Kitaj. But his ‘big three’ influences have always been Cezanne, Picasso and Klee, but has long admired painters such as Titian, Velazquez and Watteau.
Jeff’s pictures are vibrant and his bold use of colour he says is “emotional and instinctive”. Spanning abstract and figurative his work draws on themes of memory, relationships and introspection. There are often recurring motifs of triangles and of ladders. The works on show have not been produced as a series but complement each other, and the body of work has been curated specifically for The Stone Space. Some of his newer pieces, compared with earlier works, have been completed quite quickly. He has used a different technique with these, layering them up and using stand oil to create a more iridescent surface.
He says that often when he is painting it is important to know when to stop but in the case of ‘Donde’, adding mysteriously “…it could possibly be unfinished!”. He states that his aim is to provoke and engage the viewer. He quotes Anselm Kiefer ‘Art is difficult, it’s not entertainment’ and believes it is for the viewer to decide what it is he is seeing and it is not the artist’s prerogative to dictate but to offer ambiguity. He considers that some contemporary prize-winning artists’ work to be rather shallow: “There has to be more than just a visual pun”. He considers his art to be post-postmodern maintaining that the medium of paint is still crucial amongst other styles and disciplines. Amongst some of the contemporary artists he admires are Anselm Kieffer, Howard Hodgkin and Sean Scully.
Jeff works in his studio several days a week maintaining that for him making art is an intrinsic need –
“After this show I feel freer to move on. Not a new idea-but I wish to move further towards painting as an equivalent to music. And I may come to regret that remark!”.
Jeff will hold a Q&A session on Saturday 26 April at 3.00 pm.
‘What Now?’ finishes on Sunday 27 April. Exceptionally the gallery will be closed Friday 18, Saturday 19 and Sunday 20.