Loui Jover is a talented Australian artist with an impressive body of work, due in part to his personal compulsion to draw something new everyday. His unique art style consists of flowing ink caricatures on glued together pages from vintage books; an aesthetic he likes because of its “fragility… as if the wind may blow them away at any moment.” He also believes that the “hand drawn stark black lines, against the intricate printed words of the book pages offer a strange fusion and depth.” We got together with Loui – a very friendly and likeable guy – to discuss everything from exotic inks to time travel. We talked about his art too, of course, but I think his drawings speak for themselves.
PRISM: It would appear your favourite medium is ink on paper. How did you get into using these materials, and why do you prefer them over others?
Ink on paper is indeed my favourite medium, I have chosen this media over others because of its versatility and quality, and for the significance that ink has as a foundation medium of visual art itself – particularly drawing, which is my chosen form of artistic expression.
The front cover of our first issue features a Melbourne artist with squid ink poured over her body. Have you ever thought to use squid ink to create an art piece?
Squid ink sounds great. I am not sure of its properties though… Would it smell? Does it keep its pigment or fade quickly? I have used things like merlot and walnut ink in my drawings before, but nothing as far out as squid ink. I think it would be cool, and apparently it has some sex appeal right now… as far as your cover is concerned!
Well, apparently a bunch of scientists took an ink sac from a 150 million year old squid fossil, mixed it with an ammonia solution, and used it to draw a picture of the squid! The picture looks pretty good, considering how old the ink was, and that it was drawn by scientists.
Haha, I guess you would get a few scientists about who are perhaps also repressed artists. It sounds great, I like the use of media that is different and interesting, as long as it’s not too gimmicky. I think squid ink would be great to use.
In most of your artworks, you use pages from books to form a canvas. Is there something particular about using recycled paper that appeals to you?
At first I glued book pages together because that was all I had, and I couldn’t afford to buy paper. At that time I was using found cardboard sheets, brown wrapping paper and other things to draw on, but the book pages just looked good to go once glued together. Also, the use of recycled paper really appeals to me on a number of levels; I much prefer marked, foxed and stained papers to white, virginal sheets of stock.
Do you have any favourite books?
Yes, I have many favourite books. It’s usually old weird shit I like best, such as ‘Ulysses’, or Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, which I am re-reading at the moment. I like difficult, heady books that I can enjoy the detail of language use in, even if I do not finish the book or even care for the story, there is something that draws me to books by the craft of the language used. The last contemporary book I read was ‘Annabel’ by Kathleen Winter; it’s a beautifully written story about a hermaphrodite and has inspired some of my drawings.
You must have some favourite artists too, any that you think others should check out?
All artists need checking out, just look around and see. I love walking around and looking at street art in Melbourne (when I am there), or where ever else I can find it. I tend to have a large appreciation for art so I enjoy seeing a Picasso exhibition or an Ai Wei Wei show or even the Comic con. I like fiddly, abstract art that takes itself too seriously, or graffiti, which doesn’t. All of it is great. Art is such a big, open forum that one should never limit themselves to one kind or aspect.
I know it’s a cliché question, but I have to ask: what inspires you to create art?
I get inspired by anything really, a gesture, a scene from a film, a line from a book, a photograph, a section of music; it could be a pop song or a movement from Stravinsky…..anything… I pretty much always feel inspired and have a compulsion to make art. I am compelled to draw everyday, which is something I have done since I was a kid, so it is in the fabric of my being to draw. I am more inspired some days than others, of course, but always inspired enough to make a drawing or two daily, if possible.
Do you have a favourite colour?
I have no one particular favourite colour. I really do think they all are great, however, I prefer to use as little as possible mostly, I do make colored works and mixed media but I mainly like black ink on white paper with some washes of grey…. So I guess black is my answer. Is that technically a color though? I am not sure.
I remember my old art teacher always stressed that ‘more is less’. How do you decide when an artwork is finished and that adding more would detract from it? Is this an intuitive thing?
If it is an intuitive thing then I wish I had it! I ruin a lot of stuff at times because I don’t know when to stop, and other times I look at a work which has gone to a collector or such and think to myself “man I should have added this or that…” I am getting better at pulling back and seeing when something may be done, but in the end each new work is a new gamble for me, as there is always an element in my work which one can not plan for; I let the ink drip, swell and stain, so at times this is over done and the work is ruined. Some artists who plan their works meticulously would always know the exact moment to stop, but I never plan so meticulously.
Do you think art should be judged or interpreted, or is it better to leave it undefined and free from labels?
On an individual level art is always judged and interpreted, this is obvious and only natural, you either like the work or you do not. However, I personally do not see reason to judge or interpret art on an institutional level, for this seems to limit its scope and freedom, which is the very essence and beauty of art to begin with. I mean, how on earth can a person or group of people determine one art works precedence over another? Art itself does not allow for such structured objectivity; anything should be possible and plausible, one body should not determine this with doctrine and rules. Any attempt to label work on mass using self-important critical analysis or competition is pulling art into the realm of the philistine attitude – elitism and control – a place where art should never be corralled into.
On the topic of art interpretation, I find your work to be quite expressive, as each piece appears to be telling a story. The book pages you use for backgrounds seem to suggest this also. Is this deliberate, or am I ‘reading’ into it too much?
You are not reading too much into it, you are simply making your own story, as I would hope. For me personally, there is no intended correlation between the drawing and the pages. I would find it too cliché or too ‘obvious’ if I did this kind of manipulation, and I feel that something exciting would be killed off in the works if I was guiding every aspect like that. I want there to be this oddity of book titles and words not going at all with the image and in a sense forcing the viewer to either not engage with the words at all and simply see them as an aesthetic matrix in the background, or to make up their own values to the pairing of the words and image.
I made a drawing of a Japanese woman once on the book pages of a very English, vintage children’s book, and someone asked why I did not draw her on Japanese book pages. I answered because I am not Japanese and do not own Japanese books, nor could I ever read them. The point is, I am English-speaking and I am drawing the Japanese woman as a westerner appreciating the aesthetic quality of the subject, not as one pretending to be Japanese or even understanding the culture at all, so I am making the study from my perspective as filtered through my own experience, so it is only natural for me to make the drawing on English book pages, and actually contrived to do so on Japanese pages.
Apart from art, what are you most passionate about in life?
I am passionate about the need to support the freedom of expression in our society. Too many are trying to pair away at its existence, too many flashy car salesmen types (politicians) are tricking the masses into thinking one should not say this or look at that, and further more, should not have the right to do so, when really one should be able to say or look at whatever they want, and no one should be charged, maimed or killed for expressing any idea or thought at all, about any subject what so ever. Oh, and I am passionate about family as well!
Nice save by adding ‘family’ at the end. Tell me about them.
Haha, I live in Queensland with my (long-suffering) wife Fee and my ten-year old daughter Jazz…. Oh and our dog Gizmo.
Gizmo, that’s a cool name.
I think so!
Do you think there is a spiritual significance to the universe, or is it all meaningless chaos?
Oh, this is such a loaded question. All I can say for sure is that nothing is at all sure. I am simply a reflector and have no answers to such wonderment, so if one needed to pigeon-hole oneself I would have to say I tend towards ‘meaningful chaos’, though the use of the word ‘meaningless’ here tends to insinuate total anarchy, and we don’t really want that do we? I mean, it’s a bit like that on earth already… Insane!
How do you feel about the future, in regards to our growing attachment to technology? Is it a good or bad thing?
Technology is all good, if used as a tool for what ever reason, but as a drug it sucks; one needs to be aware of its addictive qualities. The more important thing is that hands on disciplines are not totally forgotten. People should always know how to use a brush and not just a stylus, for in the end the brush will always win. For one, you don’t need to recharge it!
If technology were to give us a time machine, would you use it and where would you go?
Great question! However, you know I haven’t been to so many places I want to see in this time and era, let alone another, however, if I did have the chance… hmm… I am a bot of a romantic really, so I’d probably travel to the belle epoch era of Paris when painting and drawing were at their most virile and meaningful; when ideas circulated and artists lived like Bohemians in sky lit garrets over looking the city, with models who sat and posed for their works, and they drank lots of red wine or Absinthe and argued about art in cafes and the like. There would always be exciting Jazz music playing and a smell of freshly baked bread in the air.
If you were to go back in time and give your old self some advice – assuming there were no drastic time paradoxes – what would it be?
Stop looking back! You’re looking for excuses! Keep looking forwards, idiot.
The philosopher Alan Watts believed one should not pursue a career for the purpose of making money, and said it was ‘better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way’. As it’s quite difficult to make a living from art, is this a philosophy that you hold?
I am lucky to be making a living from my art right now, so yes I do agree with the quote to a certain degree, but what I am not sure about is the definition of a short life? Washing dishes for a few years may be ultimately more desirable to drawing for just a day. Don’t get me wrong, art is fundamental to my well being, however, nothing at all should hasten one’s experience at living as long as possible in this random ‘meaningful chaos’ we label as “life”
Well said! Thanks for your time, Loui. All the best.
Follow Loui Jover @ http://www.saatchiart.com/louijover