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Studio Visit: Jamie Oldham

Jamie Oldham has graduated from Slade School of Fine Art and is a part of the current exhibition in Stockholm ‘Set The Borders On Fire’ organised by Kuvataideakatemia and the Slade. His Neo-Expressionist works form series of interconnections through webs of symbols, motifs and reappearing human figures. It is almost impossible to say where they take place in their completely fictional settings. They formally reminisce German Expressionism, which today became such an unfamiliar subject to ourselves that the only way to tackle it is to reinterpret previous painting methods.

Could you please tell us about your background? How did you decide to take on painting? –– Well, I was brought up in a small mining village in the North of England. I then joined the British Army for 12 years, which were character building times. Following that, I moved to Norway to be with my girlfriend, where I was lucky enough to pursue painting. Taking on painting felt like a natural thing to do.

What serves as a foundation for your works? Are you, by any chance, referring to Nordic literary traditions? –– Besides my experience with conflict, in such places like Afghanistan, I’d say the relationship to nature is the next essential thing. We are all trying to understand nature and when harnessed in the correct form and colour –– it is everything. The works of Edvard Munch combined with the writings of Knut Hamsun also give real clarity on the fragility of life, but also the sense of one's psychology within a chosen narrative. There are so many great Norwegian painters such as Harriet Backer, Erik Worenskold, Christian Krohg, Harald Sohlberg and Nicolai Astrup. Though, besides Norway, I am also greatly influenced by Die Brücke and other greats such as Gogh and Delacroix.

Edvard Munch. Murder On The Road. (1919; oil on canvas)

How would you describe your way of working? –– Immediate. Quite visceral. And sometimes too fast...maybe. Early on, I was working straight from memory or from direct events that had happened in conflict, though this became quite taxing and destructive to the mindset. A recent mentor said to me: "Just paint whatever interests you and be sure. No doubt it will have a multitude of underlying facts as to why you did create it".

That seems to be really productive, is that already a part of your habit? –– Yes...It seems quite difficult to stop. But I am definitely finding the correct balance. The military life, I guess, paid off in terms of being quite regimental, which can be quite handy.

The Dancers. (2019; oil on linen)

Would you say that painting has a lot potential in our digital era? –– Without a doubt. Painting is one of the very organisms we live and breath. It gives us the most direct access to a part of us which no other medium can –– some primitive avenue. There is always potential. And I’m not sure that digital processes can truly express nature's roar.

Self Portrait with Afghan Hound. (2019; oil on linen)

Does the excess of visual information affect your work? Are there any ways of overcoming this, arguably, visual fatigue? –– Yes, I would say so. It can be quite overwhelming, but it just comes down to being able to navigate it all in a healthy way. An obvious example is Instagram. It is a great tool to discover, but it is a double edged sword that also brings unwanted excess. So I think you need to keep it at a distance.

What are your plans in terms of painting? What kind of advice would you give to our readers working in the creative sector? –– Have no major plans. There was an old saying in the army ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy’. This meaning –– adapt and overcome whatever the obstacles may be.

Boot of The Car. (2018; 220x170cm; oil on linen)

Hoggorm og Fugle. (2019; study with oil on A4 card)


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