Jeremy Deller Talks Art With Us

by Cass Art

Jeremy Deller is a significant and well-liked figure of the British contemporary art world. Art-enthusiasts and the public alike hold him in high esteem, and did so even before he won The Turner Prize in 2004. Last year, his exhibition English Magic was the star of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and his work Sacrilege, 2012, a bouncy castle that took the shape of stone henge, popped up at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to commemorate a year since the 2012 Olympics.

It has been said that Deller’s Turner Prize piece was all about using art to educate, and this year, he has been heavily involved with art events for young people. He judged the Fourth Plinth School’s Awards, and hosted a master class for Cass Art’s sponsored charity, The National Art & Design Saturday Club

Jeremy Deller and Fourth Plint Winner India Bolger 

Perhaps most well-known for The Battle of Ogreave, 2001, his powerful re-enactment of a day in the 1984 miner’s strike, Deller’s work continues to refer to the social and political realms and above all, confronts the viewer with the chance to stop and think – to discover how we feel about something in our image-fuelled, digitally-enhanced society. 

As an artist who works mainly in video and installation, we asked him about his conceptual practice, and enjoyed some witty answers in return on education, materials and art as a whole.

Your work is mainly conceptual, and often labelled as political. Would you agree with this?

Labels are rubbish, so I try not to agree with them – or anything for that matter when it comes to art and the making of it. The themes that recur in my work are simply whatever interests me:  music, history, the history of music, old things, people, and so on. It’s all subject to change though.


Do you have a physical way of filtering or manifesting your ideas before your final pieces emerge as installation or video works?

I have a fetish for notebooks, but beware because buying one doesn't mean you will have ideas! Buying a book is not the same as reading it. 

I don't draw but I can write and that is what I do. Computers are bad for thought processes and are less stable than paper.

Battle of Ogreave 

Your most well-known work is probably The Battle of Orgreave, 2001. What made you want to re-enact the miners’ strike of 1984?

Well it wasn't the whole strike, just a day of it, though maybe I should do that, in real time.

And the miners’ strike of 1984-5 wanted me to make a recreation of a day from the miners’ strike of 1984-5.

Your installation Memory Bucket, 2003 earned you a nomination for the Turner Prize. What was it like taking part in – and of course winning – the Turner Prize ten years ago?

It was great! I'd recommend it to any artist. But remember it’s not the taking part that counts. It’s the winning.

Battle of Orgreave 

You share Cass Art’s appreciation of the Picasso quote, “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
You’ve had a very busy year in terms of art events for young people, judging The Fourth Plinth School’s Awards and hosting a National Art & Design Saturday Club masterclass. Can you tell us what you gained from these events?

I'm an art lover, so I'm always curious to see what art is being made by all sorts of people, even professional artists.

The children's Fourth Plinth competition was just so funny; the ideas were so unfiltered and I loved that about it.

And the National Art & Design Saturday clubs is just such a great scheme. It really shows someone putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and getting young adults to think about a career in a creative industry.

Jeremy Deller and Teacher 

What’s going on with your own artwork at the moment – aside from exhibiting in the RA Summer Exhibition? Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?

I'm currently curating an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, about the work of Andy Warhol and William Morris. They’re two big figures from the art world who have more in common than one might think. Also lots of other bits and bobs, really.

Let’s get philosophical: what does art mean to you?

That’s like asking what music means to you. It just is. 

Image Credits

Image 1 -
Jeremy Deller
Sacrilege, 2012
Courtesy The Artist

Image 3 -
Jeremy Deller
Sacrilege, 2012
Commissioned by Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2012
Courtesy of The Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow
Photo: Angela Catlin

Image 4 - 
Jeremy Deller
The Battle of Orgreave, 2001
Police officers pursuing miners through the village
Courtesy The Artist
Photo: Parisah Taghizadeh

Image 5 - 
Jeremy Deller
The Battle of Orgreave, 2001
Participating former miners and their sons on the day of the performance
Courtesy The Artist
Photo: Parisah Taghizadeh

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