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Platform Alumni Artist Focus – Jack Lewdjaw

13th Dec 2019

Jack Lewdjaw participated in the Platform Graduate Award in 2013, having been selected by Modern Art Oxford for his graduation show at the University of Reading. Jack was one of five graduates exhibiting their degree show work at Modern Art Oxford that year, one of whom, Dominic Callaghan, went on to win the overall award: a £2,500 bursary and 12 month mentoring package. CVAN South East runs the Platform Alumni network for artists like Jack who have previously taken part in the Platform exhibitions.

“I’ve just finished installing a new neon work in Glasgow; Happy Place (2019). The neon image comes from a face derived from an adult colouring book of famous artworks. Where artworks are paired down to vectorised line drawings. This specific line drawing is taken from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Focussing on only the eyes, nose, and mouth. The work can be seen 24/7 at a space called 24hrWindow until the end of the year.

“Two things happened to me when I finished art school in 2013. One – I decided I was going to go and live in France for a bit, and two – I was selected as part of Platform for my degree show at the University of Reading. One of these opportunities left me with a real taste for French pop music, the other told me that I could keep doing this art thing.

“It’s obviously a major coup getting to show your work at a big boy institution like Modern Art Oxford, and I remember at the time describing it as a ‘sweet gig’; massive space, working with curators and technicians, huge number of tourists passing by work, and the chance to do something with my work straight after graduation. I think for me and many others, we assume that our degree show will be the biggest thing we work on for quite some time. So there’s the good stuff, but I feel it would be dishonest of me however if I were to gloss over some of the frustrations I had with the project, and some reflections in retrospect. I didn’t get paid for my work at Modern Art Oxford, I didn’t get the opportunity to make new work (or a budget to do so), and there was no critical discussion surrounding the work. These are things I have thought about more in the years after taking part, and they are not necessarily things I realised at the time, otherwise I think I would have challenged them. I also understand that Platform may well have changed the way it runs since I took part. I guess my main thinking lies around what a major institution gained from my taking part in terms of ‘graduate provision and artist development’ reporting, versus what I gained from taking part. I didn’t get any obvious opportunities or meaningful professional development from taking part, but it did give me real confidence to have a well known institution say that they thought my work was worth showing, and I did in part keep making work as a result of that.

“The main piece of advice I would give a graduating artist would be to work part-time (if you can afford to, as I realise that’s simply not possible for all), try and find ways of living cheaply; that way, you might have more time for your practice. Save that… marry well.’’

Jack lives and works in Bristol. He is co-director of East Bristol Contemporary and lectures at the University of Bristol Fine Art Society, Bristol School of Art, and the EBC Night School. He is one of the selected artists currently studying on Syllabus V; a peer-led alternative learning programme run by Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridge. Find out more about Jack’s work at or on Instagram at @lewdjaw_jack

CVAN South East and Modern Art Oxford are both participants in the Paying Artists campaign and do not endorse non-fee-paying exhibitions outside of an award or professional development programme situation.

Image: It’s ok, Jack Lewdjaw, Spike Island Testspace, 2017.


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