Artist Interview: Amy Moffat on Pastel Colours, California & Junko Magazine
Artist and Designer, Amy Moffat, has been keeping busy since graduating from Wimbledon College of Arts eight years ago. As well as working on freelance projects from her East London studio, she also publishes the annual arts magazine, Junko, which has a focus on art-making and creative communities across different regions of the world. We grabbed Amy for a quick chat, just a few months before she jets back off to begin work on Issue 02...
Since graduating in 2008 you’ve established yourself as a freelance Art Director and Illustrator– could you tell us a little more about your journey since leaving art school?
Since leaving art school I feel like my career has been all over the place. I also feel like a fraud using the word "career" as I seem to just dip in and out of various projects, using skills that I've gathered along the way - a jack of all trades, master of none. I so badly wish I was an expert in one thing, but I get itchy feet and feel like I need to try everything!
Initially, after graduating from Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon, I continued to paint with the hope that I could make a living out of it. I managed to get into a few art prizes and group exhibitions, and I curated my own shows with my peers. I also did the Kingsgate Emerging Artist Residency which was a great year of development for me - that's when I started to move away from painting and towards sculpture. I was looking a lot at contemporary Set Designers who were working in the commercial sector, because the three-dimensional work that was being made, especially in London, was really exciting. I ended up freelancing a couple of set design studios so I could pick up new skills and learn the trade. It was great fun, hard work and really satisfying. I was still continuing to develop my own practice along the way but never felt like I found my groove with anything - you could call it chronic disappointment! I think you've got to be totally committed to what you're working on and not look sideways at was others are doing - which is really hard to do. I was always getting pulled in different directions and found it quite hard to focus on any one thing or style in regards to my own studio work. At the moment I feel like that's all on pause while I focus on developing Junko.
And how about Junko- what inspired you to set up the magazine and what does it aim to do?
Junko came about after a trip to California. I had been doing quite a lot of freelancing on set design jobs and a friend of mine was going to Vegas for work - I was looking for a bit of an escape, so I decided to crash her trip. We started in Nevada and did the cliché American road trip thing; driving through the desert from Vegas, to Palm Springs, to LA, in a drop-top Mustang. I actually set up some set design work in LA for the time I was there, which ended up falling through - it was quite disappointing, but ultimately gave me two free weeks to explore and take it all in. I hated the place at first, but within three days of touring the city I felt like I'd returned to my spiritual home.
Having that spare time to really explore LA and its surroundings - its landscapes, neighbourhoods, mountains, coastline and desert - really had a profound effect on me. I felt a connection to the aesthetic sensibilities of California - the vast open spaces, the light, its proximity to nature and the relationship between the city and the desert. I came back to London really inspired to make new work. Being in LA also made me re-evaluate the logistics of my practice, and think about all of the waste that comes with doing set design and sculptural work. The west coast mentality seemed very connected to respecting the earth, and there's a constant reminder of nature in LA , even though it's very urban. As a result of this, I started developing more digital work, going back to collage and using existing and recycled materials to help reduce the footprint of my artwork. It was a re-connection to something I'd really loved in art school - doing a lot with very little.
I was really struck by how much spending a few weeks in a place could really alter my perspectives on how I was making and what sparked my interests visually. It was this, plus my obsession with indie magazines and artist-led publications, that led to Junko. With Junko, the aim is to travel to a different region of the world with each issue; to explore and document the landscapes, and stop off along the way to meet and interview the artists and designers defining the local visual arts scene. The goal is to understand how geography, landscapes, climate and environment can impact the way in which people create. For Issue 01 I went back to California, which seemed a fitting place to start the magazine's journey. I drove through Joshua Tree and down to Salvation Mountain and Slab City, up through Death Valley and then to Yosemite. Even though I do say so myself, Issue 01 has some stunning photography of these places. I interviewed an awesome artist and store owner in San Francisco who runs a residency in the city, plus commissioned a photographer from the city to make a piece for Junko. Then I headed down the Big Sur coastline and back to LA, which is where most of the artists and designers I interviewed were working. I would have loved to have done San Diego and the Lost Coast as well, but I think that will have to wait- It's a massive state!
Ultimately, Junko is a beautifully crafted piece of artist-led publishing. It's got all of the nice touches that I enjoy in magazines, like quality papers, interesting layouts and interesting in-depth content with artists who are striving to carve out a career for themselves. As a student, and now as someone eight years out of art school and still figuring stuff out, the most useful and helpful things I ever saw, read or heard were those insights from other artists. I hope art students and creative professionals find value in what Junko offers and if nothing else enjoy the publication as a beautiful object.
Your work has a really strong running aesthetic- where do you look for inspiration?
I would say the most recent works I have made have all been somehow inspired by my time in California and feature a lot of nature-related imagery; plants, landscapes, the night's sky. I like to play with space, which I think comes from my experiences with collage and set design; two disciplines that have a lot to do with composition and layout, and require an understanding of both the active and the negative space within two and three dimensions. I love mark-making, whether by drawing, creating painted textures or with scissors and paper- I think these details help to create a cohesive aesthetic within my work. I've also always loved soft, pastel colours, which is another thing that California drew me back to - the light there is so strong and sharp that the colours of the city become sun-drenched and faded. There are often times when the evening light catches all of the pollution sitting over the city, and you get these magical, dreamy-coloured skies - I really loved that.
How do you like to work- are there any tools or materials you would be lost without?
The basic tools I couldn't be without are a good pen and a pair of scissors. I don't tend to make large painted works anymore, but I occasionally I use paint to create textures and marks which can be scanned into Photoshop or Illustrator and used as a digital texture. Since I work much more digitally now, I would have to say my Wacom drawing pad is my most used tool - it's so useful and easy to carry around with me when I travel.
What’s next for you and the magazine?
I'm currently in the process of researching for Issue 02 of Junko, so I'll be off exploring a new region in August 2016, with the view to release Issue 02 early next year. The magazine is an annual thing at the moment, but I'm hoping in the future to have two issues per year. The main challenge with anything like this is finding financial backing, so at the moment I'm spending many hours making phone calls, sending emails and applying for funding - it's the least enjoyable part of the process, but the most integral! I didn't spend enough time doing this for Issue 01 so much of the cost came out of my own pocket, which makes life stressful! I would also love to build a team of people who want to contribute and help out with the day-to-day creation of Junko... so if there are any marketing wizards out there please do get in touch!
Hear Amy speak about her experiences since leaving art school at Cass Art's Free Thinking event on Friday 8th July.