An interview between Josephine Flynn and Ryan Gander, Thursday 11th January,
RG: Well, it all starts here. When were you last in the studio?
JF: Me? My own studio? Err… this morning.
RG: And what’s it like? Has it got carpet?
JF: No carpet but it’s got central heating. I don’t think
I’d do art if I didn’t have central heating. It’s in
Leeds city centre, where I live.
RG: And what did you do this morning? Why did you go in there?
JF: I wanted to get my head ready for today, for this.
RG: So when were you last in your studio making work?
JF: I’ve been in quite a lot at the moment and umm… I don’t
know if I’ve properly made work. I added to something this morning.
I did a shoe, a photocopied shoe.
I’ve got this old dictionary that does some illustrations of certain
things, you know, like those Spat’s shoes that you get, those 1920s
ones. Well I just kind of added that.
RG: Why did you add the shoe?
JF: Umm… I think it just made me laugh because there’s a story.
It’s all to do with my mum actually. We used to have a cat and she
used to call it Penny Spat’s, because he used to have these paws,
like Spat’s shoes. But I don’t know if it quite works.
RG: Very nice… I can’t remember the questions I usually ask.
Err… I’m going to ask you a Hans Ulrich Obrist question: ‘Do
you have any unrealised projects?’
JF: Oooohh what? Ummm… I don’t think I work like that. I don’t
even know how I work to be honest, I feel like such a lame. At the moment
I’ve been writing what I want to research. That’s what I’ve
been doing. I don’t know if that’s the same thing.
RG: Like a list? They are unrealised projects. There’s no master
plan, there’s just a list of things you want to do.
JF: Well, yes. What have I got then? Err… Something to do with Mother
Teresa, how she became other people’s backer… because she’s
become this thing… And then…?
RG: Do you make a lot of lists?
JF: Yeah. I have to because I’m a veg basically. If I don’t
write it down it just goes out of my head.
RG: Would you say that you’re an unconfident artist?
RG: So why is your work both aesthetically and ethically really confident?
JF: But it doesn’t seem like that to me. I always think I’m
winging it. And I think that sometimes people are just going to start
laughing at me. Point at me, point at the work, and point back at me,
and they’re laughing, not in a good way.
RG: The image that conjures up in my head sounds like a work you would
JF: Really? Well that’s just a little fear. I don’t know.
I’m always looking over – which I know is a bit shit –
I’m always looking over at other people and thinking that’s
how I want to be. I’m always envious of other people and how they
do stuff. So I’m never really happy with how I am and stuff like
RG: I have a feeling with your work that it’s incredibly edgy. I
think there are as many people that could see your work and think that
you’ve made it knowingly.
JF: Yeah, but that worries me.
RG: And as many people could see you your work and think she hasn’t
got a clue what she’s doing, and I know you’ve got a clue
about what you’re doing. But in a way, for me the work is about
being so much on that brink or that cusp. It’s almost like irony
is based on the fact of knowing. That’s why with irony you only
really know that something is ironic after its been said, because of the
JF: Yeah. I’m just going to get my camera out because I want to
show you what I’ve been working on.
RG: It’s a big poo with a face made out of tin foil.
JF: No, it’s a tin foil with a face. It goes on a little stand,
but I didn’t put that in… It’s got a sad face. I’ve
been thinking a lot about smiles, it makes such a difference without the
smile. I feel like I lose something when it hasn’t got it.
RG: I was going to ask if you think you have a specific audience?
JF: I’ve been thinking about this actually. I think I go for an
art audience a bit more just because I kind of want to be in that debate
really. I was reading Mark McGowan – and I’m not that into
his work as such – but he did this interview and it was really interesting
about where he was placing himself and it just made re-think about the
limitations of where I am and stuff like that. I get so anxious about
the art world and all that kind of referencing stuff. It would be nice
to be confident enough to not worry about it and just do it, not worry
about all that contextualisation, you know? I find it limits me ‘cause
I’m trying to fit in.
RG: Can you imagine it changing your work if you lived in London?
JF: I don’t know if I’d get too intimidated. How I like to
imagine it is that I’d raise my game a bit maybe. I’d be properly
pushed I think. I can’t tell what I need sometimes but I think I
am a bit of an awkward bugger and… I don’t know.
RG: Do you think your work takes the piss out of art?
JF: I think people could think that… That’s not my motivation
though. I think my motivation is… is kind of looking at art. Maybe
looking at taste. And I think the reason why I make things like I do is
because these are the skills I’ve got.
RG: So those are the conditions under which you practice?
JF: I’ve just learnt to accept that I’m interested in lower
aesthetics. I was recently saying that I really want to be sincere all
the time, but I know how my work looks, and it looks ironic, and that
irritates me slightly because for this show I’ve been thinking a
lot about Jeff Koons really. I absolutely love Jeff Koons. I really believe
he is being sincere in his work and I really want that in my work so that’s
what I’m trying to work out. I’m thinking a lot about trying
to be happy too. Not generally, but in the work.
RG: For me one of the most endearing qualities in art is the undecipherable.
When you’re left confused by it and I get that with your work a
lot. That’s because you play so close to the border of irony.
JF: I want to pin down a bit but I think when people are in a state of
uncertainty I think it helps. It’s something that Koons does. You
know when you just can’t pin them down and then it becomes about
you, the audience.
RG: Yeah I think that’s totally true. I have to ask you what college
you went to?
JF: Leeds Met for my BA but I just went upstairs onto the 6th floor so
I didn’t have to associate with my tutors. It just upset me too
much, I just hated them.
RG: Did you learn anything there?
JF: I learnt how to be very independent. I was very scared and I didn’t
really engage so I just cut myself out of it. I went to the library a
lot. I got really into 60s and 70s performance stuff. I did loads of stuff
and didn’t show anyone. I don’t think I’ve ever shown
anyone what I did. Then I went to Sheffield Hallam for my MA. And that
RG: Can you quickly describe the ‘hands’ work? I talk about
that work a lot.
JF: Well the story is that I was very angry after my BA. I was bit cynical
about graduation stuff. I just thought it was bullshit and then I started
to really engage with the graduation ceremony. I bandaged my hand so it
was like a… I wouldn’t say it was a protest, but it was kind
of trying to fit in. In fact, my older brother Peter wrapped my hands
for me that morning and he’s not involved in art but he said the
best thing ever while he was wrapping them… I said ‘you think
I’m really weird don’t you?’ and he said ‘no I
think you’re just trying to be yourself’ and he just totally
got it. It was great.
RG: So what were the consequences of you bandaging up your hands.
JF: Err… there were no real consequences. I really wanted the photo.
I just did it for the photo.
RG: I think that work is really significant and the reason I think its
really interesting is because its like you postponed your degree. Everyone
works for three years to make degree show piece, but you used your degree
ceremony after the show. Ok quick questions… Did you ever apply
to a college in London?
JF: No. I had no confidence. I didn’t think I’d get in.
RG: Why do you want to have an exhibition at Associates?
JF: It feels like a real compliment you asking, so it feels like a validation
thing. I am scared shitless of doing it, so it’s not the most enjoyable
process. I’d rather just go to the cinema all the time to be honest.
RG: In three sentences, can you just tell us what you’re showing?
JF: I think it will be a video piece, only a couple of bits of it, this
is what I’m thinking about at the moment; maybe satin beanbags,
tin foil sculptures, maybe papîer maché sculptures with smiles
on faces, and everything will be smiley.
RG: Thank you very much. Ends here.
Josephine Flynn was
born in Leigh, Greater Manchester, in 1975. She gained an MA Fine Art
from Sheffield Hallam University in 2006, & a BA (Hons) Fine Art from
Leeds Metropolitan University in 1998. In 2005 Flynn was in the Bloomberg
New Contemporaries and she has forthcoming shows at International 3, Manchester,
and Axel Lapp Projects, Berlin, this year.