This week we spoke to Jonathan Earl "JED" De Pyper, local creative and artist extraordinaire. With projects ranging from fine art, illustration and tattoos to Draper-esque advertising chops, there's nothing JED hasn't tried his hand at. We sat down to talk all things creative, delving into his unique taste and personal style, and his goals for his upcoming solo exhibition at Tortuga Studios.
K: You have an impressive resume, citing in your website's bio (among a series of self-deprecating jokes) a litany of creative projects, commercial and independent, with the awards to match. Do you think being a creative working in a corporate context requires a sense of humor?
J: I think life requires a sense of humour! [Laughs] But yes, dealing with big corporations requires anybody, not just “creatives” to maintain a sense of humour, I think.
K: Your sense of humor comes across in your ad work; I was stoked to find out you were responsible for the Extra Dry hair farmer commercial, which I remember finding really surreal and fascinating when I first saw it. Did you find when you were working in that context you were trying to push the boundaries of that medium? Or was it more a case of you just doing you?
J: Thanks a lot. Yeah, in whatever I do I really try not to put anything into the world that I don’t think adds something or challenges people or at least myself. There’s so much mundane drivel out there and I don’t want to be responsible for that, whatever the medium is. Or course, I have definitely put out plenty of drivel (I need to eat and pay rent too, so sometimes you’ve gotta suck it up), but I do my very best to have some integrity. I think my ‘me’ comes out in some of my ad work; you can’t help put yourself in your work.
K: You've also got your finger in a few non-corporate pies, so to speak, an accomplished tattoo artist in your own right along with upcoming solo exhibition Mystery Meat at Tortuga studio. Do you find the unrestricted nature of these more personal creative outlets liberating? Or is the lack of restriction and censorship, in a way, more daunting?
J: Well, tattooing still involves two people in the creative process and both people have to be satisfied for the project to go ahead. So there’s still a client/creator relationship in that instance. But I’ve also been blessed to have clients that appreciate my style and come to me specifically for that. It’s really flattering to have someone trust you in that way.
As far as doing pure art for myself, yes, I have found it quite daunting, as I’ve never really created anything without a brief before. Also, it’s absolutely for myself, and I can be a very challenging client.
K: What are some of the themes and issues you're dealing with in the new exhibition?
J: Well, it’s a very familiar territory I guess, and I hate to say it but most of it is ‘the human condition’. But my own take. This year I wanted to focus on my art, but I had no idea where to start. I’ve come to a point in my life where some big questions keep recurring and I wanted to ask them of myself and humans in general. Why do people have children? Why is happiness the end goal? Should I fight my instincts? Why do people get married? Do I really need another motorbike? [Laughs]
I was trying to use some of this stuff as a sort of self-therapy experience. A lot of the pieces are also memories from my life that I’ve re-created to try to understand why I think the way I do.
It’s very self-involved I know, but all these themes were just starting points as I needed something to leap from and the work often evolved in the creating.
K: What reaction do you try to evoke from viewers of your work?
J: Well, I think I have quite a discordant view on a lot of things and I like to challenge the middle-road of thinking (I like to think I am anyways). I try to get my work to evoke that, so it is discordant visually as well. I hope they have to try and figure out the meaning from the work of course. But I really want the meaning to be esoteric and unidentifiable so that even when what you’re seeing might seem obvious, what it’s about might be harder to discern.
I think because a lot of it is very personal, I’m sure people who know me will be able to theorise fairly accurately what some of it means.
I also hope that it’s just visually pleasing to people as well. [Laughs]
K: I notice that your tattoo work generally sticks to traditional tattoo imagery (albeit with a distinct 'graphic art' flare), while your gallery work is abstracted and considerably more contemporary. What do you think has influenced these stylistic choices?
J: Well, for tattoos, I think the core meaning should be undeniably on show without any masquerade. The iconography of tattooing exists to be used and shaped. If it’s love you want to show, do a heart. Don’t try too hard to be lofty. I also work in opposite ways with art versus tattooing. I try to simplify the tattoos to their essential visual, graphic element, where as with art I prefer the meaning hidden so I add layers of messaging and visual elements to raise even more questions. Also, tattoos change over time with age so you have to consider how the design will look in 50 years, that’s why I think simple and bold and iconic is best, without a surplus of unnecessary detail or colour.
JED's upcoming exhibition, 'Mystery Meat', opens at Tortuga Gallery on July 31st.
By Kieran Hernage, 29th July 2015