Q&A with Specialist Teacher and exhibiting artist, Glen Jorna
The Arts have always played a key role at Wellesley: Boys who have come through these gates have explored the Arts in every way, whether they’re tough on the rugby field or sharp in the Lit Quiz. How lucky are they, then, to benefit from these incredible specialist teachers, from such a young age, as part of their foundational learning?
One of these specialist teachers is Glen Jorna, Head of Arts at Wellesley: Today, we sat down for a Q&A, ahead of the NZ Art Show, which opens tonight. Here is what he had to say:
Q: “Glen, can you tell me what it means to you to be in the NZ Art Show this year, exhibiting for the third time?”
A: “It means a lot to me, and not just as a teacher: It’s great for me to feel that I can be an inspiration to the boys that I teach, and they can see me as an exhibiting artist. Hopefully this means that they are inspired to continue pursuing an artistic journey and become one day exhibiting artists themselves.
On a personal level, I feel like I am evolving as an artist and the NZ Art Show is a good platform to get my art seen and enjoyed by the public. I am feeling very happy with what I am producing and comfortable with the process.”
Q: “How do you feel your art has evolved over the last three years?”
A: “Early on, it was very raw, and with time and practice, it has become more refined and more harmonious, more layered, textured and even more sculptural I think.”
Q: “What are you trying to communicate in your artworks?”
A: “I am trying to give a platform to things that people don’t notice: On, say, Cuba Street, people might walk around and not notice little compositions of interesting street textures. So, what I’m trying to do is give a platform to things that people don’t notice and capturing the beauty in decay and the decay in beauty.
Q: “So you’re looking at urban decay, billboards, signs, street textures as your inspiration?”
A: “Yes, all of that. I still collect street posters- they’re always an element in my work, where I start from, and build up from there.
It’s also about capturing a sense of time, place and history. The little pieces of evidence in my artworks reference different locations around the city.
Q: “Yes, I’ve noticed in some of your artworks that sometimes words, or logos, appear through the layers- Do you use this as a starting point to develop a piece?
A: “It does start there: I collect and sort the ripped-up posters into piles (colour, motif, etc) and then I’ll start to layer and glue the elements in a collage, which often informs the colours I choose for the paint, spray paint and markers. Sometimes, there will be things that pop out, like words or forms. Other times, I will just create compositions that I find beautiful or that have a deep meaning or hidden message. I always name the piece with some reference to where the material came from (a poster or the street it was collected from).
Q: “Do you have a favourite area around Wellington that you like to collect from?”
A: “Probably around the Cuba street area, or Newtown. There are lots of interesting walls and grungy areas. Wellington, though, in the last few years has been cleaning up its advertising areas a lot, so I’m finding it frustrating because I like the raw-ness and grunginess, and it’s getting too clean! If I go to Melbourne, for example, the city’s just covered in layers of billboard posters and street art, which is just so cool.”
Q: “Am I correct in saying that, what you’re trying to do, is to bring that sense of ‘street art’ into the home? To somehow ‘bring the outside in’?”
A: “That’s a great way of looking at it! I don’t think of myself as a “Street Artist”, but I guess I’m bringing some refinement to the decay on city streets and bringing it into a home, contemporising it, putting my own stamp on it, and refining it. It’s about putting my own lens onto street art, my interpretation of it, and putting it on canvas. It’s a reflection of what’s out there and bringing the outside in. I think people like the idea of having a little piece of a place in their home, they like the reference to it because they have been there.”
Q: “So you’re capturing the feeling of a place?”
A: “Yes, a feeling, a little bit of history, a sense of place, all those kinds of things.”
Q: “Fantastic. So, when you’re teaching your students, do you talk to them about these ideas when they’re looking at artwork? How do you help them inform their art?”
A: “With the older boys who do Art Extension, they have more of an insight into me as an artist and my process. A few of them are keen to have a go at some of my techniques. I guess when I’m teaching the boys any project, I always start with incorporating some Art History, so I always introduce a new project with a famous (or not so famous) artist and try to hook them in that way. This gives them context.”
Wellesley congratulates Glen on his body of work, his dedication, and expertise in visual arts. For more information on Glen’s work, visit https://www.artshow.co.nz/artist-details/glen-jorna/
We hope Wellesley boys and their families will make time to visit the NZ Art Show this Queen’s Birthday weekend at the TSB Arena.