Jack Winthrop in conversation with Nora Partl

Jack Winthrop is an accomplished artist from Minneapolis, Minnesota who recently moved to Los Angeles after living and working in New York City for a decade. When he was developing his style as a child, drawing and creating were like breathing. Almost involuntary. Winthrop’s curiosity drove him and his diligence to create new things on a daily basis. He mostly paints large-scale paintings on canvas. Manoeuvring between an eclectic range of styles and subjects, he challenges the conventional and explores the boundaries between fine art and subculture or street culture. By breaking down the human form, he creates work appealing like a mirror that transcends the filter we perceive as ourselves.

His works arise from the techniques Jack Winthrop learned from drawing, painting, and creating throughout his life by dissecting and dissolving them through abstraction. Winthrop deploys refined and sophisticated judgments through form, color, composition, balance, tension, and aesthetic, which he attributes to his education in the field of design. He is engrossed by and studies the human condition by translating and transforming it using strokes of the brush.

Nora Partl: Jack Winthrop, what made you want to become an artist? And do you feel like you’ve achieved this goal?

Jack Winthrop: I believe it’s very simple for me: it’s impossible for me not to create art. I fell in love with the process of making things, with curiosity and introspection being the defining elements. Besides that, I think that art is what gives my life meaning and purpose. I have to be an artist. No other path was possible for me. I don’t think the goal should be to question whether or not I’m an artist; the focus should be on the work itself, how it evolved, and what it stands for.

NP: You work a lot with the combination of traditional painting and graffiti art. How does the contemporary graffiti movement inspire your work?

JW: Graffiti had a huge influence on me when I was younger; it’s what got me using the medium of spray paint. I also believe graffiti is an extension of abstract art, using the deconstruction of letterforms, color, and the expression of shape to describe something. That’s what inspired me from the beginning and still has an impact on my fine art work. Graffiti documents culture and ideas in a way that I think all art forms should. I don’t think I use a "combination of graffiti art" so much as graffiti helped me define my own visual language long before I realized that’s what I was actually doing. I think graffiti just evolved into what I use as a technique now. I use the contemporary medium of spray paint that graffiti artists use and mostly work on large-scale canvases.

NP: Where else do you draw inspiration from?

JW: My own narrative and experiences are my main sources of inspiration. Besides that, I am inspired by many things: our history, the human condition, my environment, the people in it, and a slew of other ideas, concepts, and human constructs. I try to allow the work to speak for itself as well. I’m interested in how the experience of viewing art differs for each individual. My work is based on how art affects its surroundings and why it is so appealing to those who consume it.

NP: Your work oftentimes revolves around autobiographical aspects, such as in your series WOUNDED HEALER. Do you view your art as a form of self-reflection?

JW: Absolutely yes! It is most likely the most profound aspect of my work. It feels as though I’ve lived many lifetimes throughout this journey of mine. When you truly reflect on your decisions and path and alter that path, it’s profound, and I hope the new work reflects this. Not only am I unrecognizable to myself, but most people in my life who have witnessed my recovery are as well. This new series attempts to implement my experience through painting and abstraction of the human form.

I'd like to provide some context for the work I'm currently producing and why I'm producing it, not to romanticize it. I believe the cornerstone of growth is suffering. I needed this hardship to happen, which has set me up perfectly to be totally and absolutely present in every moment. I approach each day as a blessing and with gratitude. Art is honest and vulnerable; it speaks to the soul of the person creating it. If my new work wasn’t about self-reflection, it probably wouldn’t exist at all. From an early age, creating art was a necessity for me as a way of distracting myself and escaping reality. I found solace in the solitude and imagination of it all. I truly believe art has the power to heal, and it has genuinely saved my life.

NP: Art and spirituality are very closely interwoven in your practice. Can you explain why that is?

JW: The series TOTEMS represents something vulnerable and authentic to me, based on my own spiritual journey and awakening. It was the catalyst for my growth as an artist and human being. It’s as if I’m just recreating something that has always been inside me, except I’ve only recently discovered it. The totems in my work represent certain principles, virtues, and states of being and present a shift in perspective about life and what it means to be alive. Totems represent a balance in life, the yin and the yang, dark and light. Life and death They’re a symbolic or metaphorical representation of an idea or belief system in physical form. I want to specifically detail that we are all capable of anything; we just need to believe and have faith in ourselves. Belief is truth, and the work reflects that truth.

NP: How do you visualize that in your paintings?

JW: In a lot of ways, I let the painting tell me where its headed, like trusting yourself. There is a lot of trust happening during my process of generating art. I don’t usually sketch or plan out the work beforehand as I build on what is on my mind first. Over time my intuition for creating has allowed me to create spontaneously and confidently without hesitation. I think this gives the work and added element of power or validity. Every painting is effectively just an experiment and learning process for the next. This makes for a lot of mistakes but also gives space for new ideas and wonderful discoveries. My work emerges by allowing myself the freedom to explore that I stumbled into the new concepts of my current work. I have more faith in the process than the outcome. The ability art has to capture feelings or emotions, is just as important to the descriptive themes I apply to it with rhetoric.

NP: Where do you see the future of contemporary art heading?

JW: I can’t predict the future, but I think we are moving towards more accessibility in the contemporary art world. I think social media and the internet are changing the conversation about what it means to be a collector and art enthusiast. People have access to the artist in a new and approachable way. It's both a blessing and a curse for me because I don't want to feel like I'm making art for an APP or platform, but I also recognize that the reach I've been able to develop would not be possible without it. I think what will change most is the definition of what art is and how it is consumed by many people at once.

Jack Winthrop's PEACE is released as a 24-HOUR EDITION DROP on December 15 at 6 PM CET on EXPENDED.ART. Please click HERE to collect the edition.


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