On the cover: Oliver Jeffers interview
Our stunning cover art for DG #25 is courtesy of Oliver Jeffers, the acclaimed artist, illustrator, author and director. His picture books for children, including Stuck, Lost & Found and How to Catch a Star, have been translated into more than 30 languages while his fine art has been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery and Lazarides in London.
Marcus Webb spoke to him for our latest issue about the new US president and the quantum physics behind his landscape painting…
What inspired your painting, Gravity, which features on our cover?
It is from a series of pictures that look at something artistically and logically at the same time. I’d paint a scene and then try to find a mathematical equivalent. I liked the contrast between this figurative brush stroke and then this cold, clinical equation. So you have this satellite that has obviously plummeted to earth, but right above it, very faintly written into the sky, is the mathematical formula for gravity.
We were keen to run it in this issue as to us it evokes the shock of the US election result…
Well, exactly. We’ve been brought down to earth with a bump. A lot of people had ideas of what was absolutely going to happen, and then reality hit. People get a sense of the world by following their social media feeds, but you only follow people you agree with so it’s not an accurate depiction of reality. Then the world goes a different way and there’s this jolt, this satellite hitting the earth with a thump.
I’m still hopeful this is the last dying thrust of the old mentality. That the old order has gambled all its chips in one go and that ultimately this will galvanise open-minded, accepting people to stop being complacent. Nothing is set in stone. If you want the world to be a place where there’s civil rights, human rights and equality, then that has to be constantly maintained and defended.
I’ve heard one of the biggest influences on your work was a quantum physicist. Is that right?
Yes, and that happened by accident. For my first equation painting, Understanding Everything, I picked a formula for light that felt right from an old encyclopaedia. That painting was bought by a quantum physicist. And he got in touch with me saying, “Obviously you’ve made a painting referencing Bell’s Theorem.” Only I had never heard of that. So I really had to find out what this guy thought I had done.
We met and had a fascinating conversation about art, science and philosophy and how the three interlock with each other. We ended up meeting once a week for about a year. I’ve been making work in and around some of the questions and quandaries that come up about quantum physics ever since then. So all of my dipped paintings, seascapes and landscapes have come from that in one way or another.
You have had huge success with your picture books – are they a help or a hindrance when it comes to your fine-art work?
I think in my mind they’ve helped. People have always assumed that the books are my bread and butter and the art is my hobby but that’s not true. They’re both equal passions, they just take different forms. I think that there’s a levity to my art that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the books and there’s a gravity and a lack of sweetness in the books that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the art.
You can buy prints of Jeffers’s work from Lazarides Editions, lazinc.com
Slow Journalism in your inbox, plus infographics, offers and more: sign up for the free DG newsletter. Sign me up
Thanks for signing up.