One to Watch

Writing in Color with Jack Charles Gwyer

Based in South London, Jack Charles Gwyer‘s compelling paintings are a visual exploration of linguistics through symbolic and experiential interpretation. Using acrylic and oil, Jack produces works with diverse forms and textures that represent and abstraction of his lived experiences. 

Jack received his BA in Literature & Language from Goldsmiths University of London. He went on to showcase in numerous galleries including Jeannie Avent Gallery and OXO Tower. Jack was recently commissioned for a mural by anatomē in London, and his work has been featured in media publications such as Shift London.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Currently I am working on two separate projects which relate to the theme of language. One shares a relatively direct link to language use, by deconstructing different symbols of written form. The other is more semantic, and based on the visualisation of biographical or poetic notes, so a lot of time is spent documenting particular moments in my life that I want to then visualise, but on a much larger and lasting scale. I’ve found that working around the theme of language has many different channels and see a unity between these two current variations in the not so distant future. But for now I am working through these processes as I feel connected to both and enjoy them for different reasons.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

Growing up in the South West of England you don’t really get an opportunity to see contemporary art, so really it was after moving to London that I fell in love with it. I started painting during my second year of study and it’s all felt very organic getting to where I am now. At the time I was really into constructivism and would often draw different concrete objects that I’d see in Central London, based on pictures that I had taken or seen online. Initially, I was probably drawn to my medium as it felt like an escape from academia, as what I was painting was all very controlled and provided me with a vehicle in life that felt precise, clear, and stable. As I’ve developed as an artist my practice has become more emotional, philosophical in some ways, my visual appetite has also changed a lot and the places where I look for inspiration have become far more remote.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

Over the years my work has changed dramatically. I began by painting and drawing on recycled paper and then slowly started to work on canvas, linen, and wood panels. At this point my work was all very controlled and lacked a particular sensibility. I then began experimenting with texture, which made me feel connected to my work in a way that had previously felt hollow. At the moment, I am still developing a process where I deconstruct symbols of written discourse, which is changing how I work in many ways and allowing me to feel a greater connection to each piece I produce. This is maybe because of the process of re-contextualising language, forcing the viewer to see language as mundane and beautiful, rather than linguistic and implicit.  

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

Most of my paintings begin with a sketch, some I guess are less thought out but usually I begin with an idea based on something. I used to begin by rubbing layers of oil into canvas, taking my time to figure out how each layer would work with the next. When I was painting like this it could take up to a month to finish a painting, due to the lengthy drying times of oil paint. I then started working with acrylic and varnish, these paintings felt more fun as It would only take a couple days to finish one, so I was producing a lot more work on a larger scale. I am now experimenting with acrylic and varnish from a more sculptural perspective, by applying thick layers of paint to make up each element. The canvas in these new works is much more three dimensional, providing far greater depth from the wall, combining elements of both painting and sculptural practices. Knowing when a work is finished is hard, as sometimes you feel pleased just to have completed a piece but perhaps not emotionally attached. I know a piece is finished when I feel connected to it, if it makes me feel moved when I stand back and look at it, that is when I know I have completed something that is true to myself and part of my identity.

Who are your favourite writers?

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of Murakami and thought Norwegian Wood was a beautiful read. I don’t really have favourites anymore, I think its important to read a variety of books and am constantly on the look out for something new. 

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?

I currently work on a part-time basis with Emergent Magazine, so I’d carry on doing that.

About the Author

Monty Preston is the Assistant Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at saatchiart.com/artadvisory.