Interview: Janet Hoy
Luca Curci talks with Janet Hoy during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, third appointment of BORDERS Art Fair 2020, at The ROOM Contemporary Art Space and Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Janet Hoy was born in England, but has lived in Donegal, Ireland, since 2005. Her studio is in Derry/Londonderry, N. Ireland, across the border. Her early career was spent in marketing and for twenty years she lived and worked in London, as a Managing Director of a leading agency. After she left London and the marketing industry, she returned to studying and graduated with an Asso Degree in Fine and Applied Arts from Ulster University in 2013. Since graduating she has exhibited in the U.K. and Ireland and in 2019 she won “The Painting Prize” at The Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Janet Hoy – I should be working on a solo exhibition (provisionally entitled “Extinctions”) at the moment – but it’s proving difficult. I live right on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK; my home is in Donegal and my studio is in Derry, but moving between the two is proving to be a challenge. I’m right in the middle of another Memento Mori painting as part of a series, this one is called “The Pollinators”, and I can’t get to my studio as Ireland is in lockdown and I am not allowed to go more than 5 km away.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
JH – I could justifiably claim I am going to work – but then it is across the border in Derry, and the Garda are out stopping cars, asking why we are going north into the UK! When I do get into Derry, it’s a bit of a ghost town because we have an almighty spike in Coronavirus cases on both sides of the border… It’s hard to get motivated. So, I am spending more time with my camera in the Donegal countryside instead. Being an artist at the moment is not easy, but we seem to need creativity more than ever to help us through this dislocated time. As our everyday social interactions are being stripped away from us, the need to reach out to each other, sharing ideas and establishing contact, even if it is just virtual, is more important than ever.
LC – What art themes do you pursue; what is your preferred subject if there is any?
JH – I have managed to finish one work for “Extinctions”; it is a Memento Mori painting entitled “Plastic Ocean”. It is a commentary on the plastic pollution we are pouring into the ocean every year, which is now entering our food chain. I paint in tempera on panels and sometimes combine this with photographic decals which I can smooth onto the flat, gessoed surface. In this painting the labels on the plastic bottle and the fish are decals. The plastic bottle features an ironic label that talks about “750 years of purity” and the label on the fish I have photoshopped to read “1% polyester”. Obviously, I like my work to carry some sort of meaning and want people to spend time with my work, looking a bit deeper.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think of the theme of the festival?
JH – Certainly the theme of Borders is apposite! It’s funny because the closer we get to the reality of Brexit – in January 2021 – the less heated the debate has become, and that is because of Coronavirus. We couldn’t imagine an issue that would create more upheaval than Brexit – and then all of a sudden we are in the middle of a pandemic. The whole idea of ‘borders’ has shifted, from the political, from States and identities to the personal – personal space, blocking social interactions, touching and not touching…how do we retain our humanity, and our empathy, when we are afraid of each other? Communicating, reaching out to each other, entertaining each other – mainly online – has become so important to our wellbeing. And we have been reminded of the value of the arts!
LC – Has your artwork been created for the festival or as a part of pre-existing works?
JH – For the “Borders Festival” exhibition I submitted a video piece – I work across a variety of media, which I select depending upon the idea that is inspiring me. I had created it for a proposed touring exhibition, which was part of a programme called “Understanding the Decade of Centenaries” in Ireland. It was organised by The Nerve Centre in Derry and Artlink in Donegal as a cross-border project, supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme. The exhibitions were scheduled for April 2020, but had to be cancelled during the first lockdown. I think there are about 20 artists from across the UK and Ireland who are taking part, and we hope that we can show our work next year, as 2021 will be the centenary of the Partition of Ireland. My work, “Turning and Turning” was filmed at a hill fort (Grianan of Aileach) which straddles the border between Donegal and Derry, looking out across a divided landscape – a place where red lines have been drawn on the map of Ireland. I have featured some of the Irish poet WB Yeats’s work, The Second Coming, which was written in 1920 during the time of Partition, because the words resonate now – the same issues are being churned round and round – as we struggle with the consequences of Brexit. I suppose there is a common thread between my work on “Extinctions” and the work I have submitted for the Borders Festival, which is my fascination with where the political meets the personal. There’s always a strong ethnographic strand in my work; I don’t know whether that has come about because of where I live now, or whether a backdrop of political debate has always been a part of my life – my dad was head of a Trade Union, so maybe that leaked into my consciousness from an early age.
LC – What do you think about the organisation of our event?
JH – I think that the work that Its Liquid has done over these past few months in supporting artists and bringing their work to the public has been invaluable. Obviously, I was disappointed when the exhibitions I had been scheduled to take part in this year were cancelled. So, to be given the opportunity to exhibit in Venice was great, but on top of that, I think your online profile is so important right now because that is how most people are connecting to art and artists.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
JH – It would be great to have an (online) “visitor’s book” from your festival because I can’t visit Venice obviously and have no feel for visitors’ comments/appreciation.