A few days ago, I shared a link on Facebook to one of my favourite modern artists – Jason Fitzgerald – and I had a few comments back from people – what do you see in his work?
Jason is a client of mine, and I have to admit I am not usually a great modern art fan. There’s stuff that I love, and things that leave me cold. But when I first met Jason, I spent a bit of time talking with him to get to understand why he does what he does. And now that I understand his story, I see his work with new eyes. You see – the “back story” behind why people do what they do is always compelling.
So let me fill you in about his story and then perhaps you will understand why I adore his work.
Jason was always drawing as a kid. Even now, you can put a pencil in his hand and it takes off and does its own thing. But, Jason was also scared of traditional art classes, so did metalwork and woodwork at school instead.
At the end of year 12, his careers counsellor handed him a brochure for art college. He kept that well-creased brochure for years, periodically looking at it while he did a trade in French Polishing instead. You see, he didn’t think he was good enough to be an artist.
It took until Jason was 28, watching the sunset over the Swiss alps from Mt Pilatus in Switzerland, that he thought, “Why not go back and chase the dream – Why not just do it!” At that moment he felt a massive bolt of energy course through him, and from then nothing stopped him.
He enrolled in every art class he could find, with his studies finally taking him to Griffith Uni as a mature age student at 35. He finally knew he was an artist, that he was good enough and he had to make up for lost time. And by then his love of timber had taken root, which meant that he was naturally drawn to wood and timber as his media. He has now won many prestigious art prizes and is rapidly gaining a positive reputation in the modern art world.
I asked him about his creative process – and what makes him suddenly decide to create a piece.
“It all starts when my eye is caught by something around me. It catches a defect, a scar, timber stacked unusually … angles and markings where things have moved creating a new design. I grab bits of timber and try and re-create that glimpse, that moment.
But, in the process of re-creating, I am drawn somewhere else. I use things that are raw, broken and discarded, and craft something new – building on the repetitions in nature and the organic growth of things, where lots of little things become oneness.”
“My works grow and tell me when they need more. Sometimes they grow quickly and at other times they lay dormant until new growth appears. I create and control, yet am controlled by what I see. I have an urgent desire to build and create. It simply happens and I am as much part of the organic growth as the piece itself. “
“And yet … in a moment … it is done. I think it is when there is a perfect unity of aesthetics and balance, that’s when my pieces are complete.”
“I love finding beauty in brokenness, creating a piece that is visually stimulating and that holds attention rather than being something you simply walk past.”
“In life, I am fascinated by how on one level chaos reigns, but when you look closely enough at something, each element is completely controlled, planned and perfectly imperfect.”
“You can visually skim over the surface of an object and just see it as raw, broken and distorted, or you can engage and look deeper to experience the simpleness and naturalness of it.”
So now, when I look at his pieces of work, I see someone who didn’t feel they were “good enough” but decided to go for it anyway. I see someone with the hands of a creator – placing pieces of timber so precisely and specifically that they appear to be random. I see past the brokenness to the beauty within … I see metaphors for life by a philosopher who uses timber instead of words.