James Hornsby | Issue Eight Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work I’m a multidisciplinary artist and commercial photographer living and working in Brisbane, Australia. Before studying a degree of photography with honours in fine art at Queensland Collage of Art, my creative journey began as a child who was obsessed with doodling in Microsoft paint. In my high school years, I was heavily involved with street and youth culture. I gained notoriety online and in the classroom for creating videos of skateboarding slams, delinquent behaviour, foolish stunts and outrageous skits. After having videos go viral and footage being purchased by online media companies, I pursued a career in the film industry. Hoping to get my foot in the door by working as a set constructor, painter and dresser for Warner Brothers, I realised that the film industry was an unruly machine that I didn’t want to be a cog in. I then found independence in photography and became more involved in the BMX scene in Brisbane. After shooting for Australia’s premier BMX print magazine, I started a small BMX clothing brand and managed a team of riders from around the country. Wanting to develop my skills in photography, I enrolled in art college and after four years of study came out the other end with an open mind and an insatiable drive of becoming an artist. Since graduating art school, I have exhibited work in galleries, institutions and festivals across Australia and been awarded multiple prizes for my work.

What set you off as an artist? If you want to go far back as childhood, I was obsessed with creating my own illustrations after struggling with colouring within the lines in colouring books. Much more recently, a defining point for me was a group critique I had in the second year of university, I really impressed my lecturers and peers with some drawings I made of my dreams. The way they reacted really excited me and brought to my attention to how I can connect and affect people through art. I really credit it as a turning point for me and my practice.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work I explore a very broad spectrum of themes in my work. These themes often change depending on the project. A notable through line in almost all my work is how we, as humans, connect and exchange with digital technologies, and how we use these technologies to connect and exchange with each other. Recently, I have been taking a more introspective approach to my work, exploring ideas closer to my own life experiences such as, personal mental wellbeing, climate crisis anxieties and my work as a commercial photographer. In my latest body of work, I pursue these themes in a series of multi-dimensional portraits. These portraits link together to create a dystopian universe that predicts the future but also connects to themes of my late teenage years. These works are produced through a technical and labour-intensive process. Every image is carefully created in my photography studio with all the steps and techniques of a commercial photography practice. The emerging photographs are then vandalised with digital retouching software, usually regulated to the role of image correction and perfection. This misuse of these commercial techniques completely capsizes my photography practice. The resulting compositions create striking, dizzying scenes of doomsday and mental distress.

What art do you most identify with? Any specific influences or research areas? I feel I really identify with abstract expressionist paintings. Especially videos of the artists at work. I love the gestural movements of the painters and I really enjoy the process of layering. When it comes to my own work, I take on a practice led research method. Often just making work without noticing all the influences I am drawing from. Almost like osmosis my subconscious gradually assimilates ideas and it’s not until after the work is created, I see how obvious the influence is. It’s an exciting way to create and just let ideas flow, allowing the subconscious mind to work its magic. For instance, it has become clear in my newer work that there are heavy horror cinema influences. When wanting to communicate distress, unease or suspense my subconscious mind draws from scenes of horror movies I have recently seen.

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? What is your most essential tool? I’m continuously going through phases of being obsessed with different ideas and projects, but I always need my strobes to shoot, they would have to be my most essential tool in the studio. I have a distinct style of lighting my subjects and I love to play around with lighting, so having them on deck is important. Apart from that, I can’t create without my friends and family. I love company in the studio, and I love bouncing ideas around and feeding off the energies of other people.

Tell us how you organise, plan, and prioritise your work I organise, plan and prioritise in a very chaotic fashion. My daily planner looks like a conspiracy theorist’s basement. I pretty much just list off everything that needs to be completed that week and from there, I try to focus on what I’m most excited about. I tend to prioritise commercial work over my own practice, with enough late nights and early mornings, I generally get everything done on time.

How do you navigate the art world? I tend to navigate in a very intuitive manner, but in the grand scheme of things the art world is a giant waterfall and I’m just wading around in a little hand made raft not knowing when the fall is coming.

Describe the trajectory of your career as an artist so far? The trajectory of my career as an artist so far has been very successful. Although my career is still young, I have achieved almost every goal I have ever given myself. I think it also looks very successful and easy from the outside looking in. In reality, from the inside looking out, there have been amazing mountain summits and deep dark valleys. Overall, I’m really happy with what I have achieved in such a short time and I’m even more excited for where I’m heading. Professionally, what is your goal? My main goal professionally is to be in a position where I can do what I want creatively, without any restraints or barriers holding me back. I’d love to be able to make my biggest ideas come to life no matter how grandiose they are.

My solo exhibition “Flesh Car Valet” that was held in August, had an outstanding reception and was hugely successful for me. I have a few group shows coming up, and a number of fashion collaborations. I’m mainly excited about putting on a solo exhibition in Tasmania next year. Tasmania is an island state of Australia that is located south of the mainland and is extremely untouched and beautiful. It seems over the last few months, the island has been calling me and I’m really excited to experience a new place with the absolute privilege of showing my art there.

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