Artist & Writer Interview: Jp King, pt. 2

We’re back with Part 2 of our interview with Papirmasse issue 14 contributor Jp KingPart 1 focused on Jp’s writing.  Since he’ll be tackling both sides of the issue, this interview delves into his artistic practice.

Jp's Studio

Curio shelf in Jp King’s Studio

P: You’ve done book and magazine layout, art direction for the Art Matters festival, freelance graphic design, and then you have your own art practice.  How do you decide where to put your time, and at the end of the day, which of these things matters most to you?
I’ll start with the fact that I have some kind of productivity anxiety. If I’m not busy making stuff I get real uncomfortable. So, I’m a busy guy. I mostly work and don’t do much else. As per the division of time, focus, and energy… it’s been different when working on various projects and with different people. What I enjoy most is finding projects to work on that allow me to dedicate time to my own practice. In that sense I’m still struggling to be a designer. I’m a little selfish that way and don’t always want to have clients choose how I spend my time. At the end of the day I am usually prying my eyes open to glue one last thing or set-up a print file for the next day. Then I climb into a bed half-full of books with a pair of scissors or text to edit and work until I fall asleep. Last week I fell asleep on a utility knife and didn’t realize it until the next morning.


'Safe As Drinking Water' by Jp King

P: We talked a lot about your writing and involvement in small-scale publishing in the last interview. What other kinds of work do you do?

I make colour collages from old magazines, and b&w collages from mail-order catalogues, old text-books, old advertisements, and photocopies. I draw a little, although much of it is tracing to achieve the effect of drawing. I do some installational/sculptural work. I built a wheelchair with a desk and a typewriter and invited writers to apply for a two-hour residency while I wheeled them around the neighborhoods of Montreal. It was called the Nomadesk Writer’s Residency, and is in the works for a rebirth in new form. I run a series of Micro-Exhibits, which are publicly installed exhibitions of business card sized art. I’ve been wheat pasting my excess and test print around Montreal and Toronto. And I write, although don’t finish much. I’ve written three novels all of which sit somewhere, sniffling, and begging for more attention, or a burning match.

Shaking the Dump by Jp King

Shaking the Dump by Jp King

P: Are all your collages successes?  How many out of the ones you make find their way out of the studio and into the world?

Every single one is a stunning success, worthy of barter for a diamond skull, or maybe some just aren’t finished yet. Not all my collages make it out of the studio. I guess part of my process is to make something, scan it, touch it up, print it, and then test it in the real-world, with friends, at craft fairs, with store owners or curators. For the most part, one out of every ten seems well appreciated. Working in small production numbers and selling art affordably becomes a very democratic way of crowd-sourcing/field testing the success of certain works. Some of my favourite collages never get picked up, while others are constantly selling out. I don’t understand why people like what they do… there definitely isn’t a formula you can follow. I do know that people like to use images to tell themselves stories, so work with open narrative seems most appreciated.

What Rain Does to Humans by Jp King

What Rain Does to Humans by Jp King

Often people think that my work is nostalgic, that my collages linger on these romantic feelings towards the past. The word nostalgia is derived from the German for homesickness, and I don’t feel acutely homesick for any particular time. I’ll only know the era in which I live, but I am fascinated with how history is graphically documented and perceived. There are people born in the last thirty years, who at one point growing up, believed that for a brief period of time, between the colourful portraits of rich land barons and angels of the pre-modern and the desaturated appearance of the 1950’s, the world lived entirely in black and white.  Imagining any kind of colour on a horse-drawn buggy, or in a cowboy portrait seems almost impossible. Black and white is a very unquestioned and odd way of viewing reality. To look backwards to an era in which people purchased their clothes from a catalog of drawings is to understand an alternate mode of reality. To have the history of advertising, graphic design, and art show us the lineage of popular culture’s thought that brought us here is what I am after. I like where I live, amidst a pile of old magazines and books, with electronic music playing off of a computer the size of my palm.

P: Who or what are your biggest sources of inspiration?

In art I find huge inspiration from my parents who raised me in darkrooms, printing houses, galleries, and studios. From old magazine advertisements, antique packaging, text book diagrams, weather charts, anatomy studies, things I find in the garbage, photocopies, and a big list of artists, some in history books, many on the internet, which would be too long to put here without feeling as though it still didn’t pay enough homage. In writing it’s easier, I’m a lot pickier and my tastes are much narrower. You likely won’t read many more than a thousand books in the rest of your life… why wade through something you don’t enjoy? I love William S. Burroughs, Henri Michaux, Ben Marcus, Henry Miller, Matthew Derby, Kobo Abe, Katherine Dunn, Gil Adamson, Michael Ondaatje, Jeramy Dodds, David Berman, George Saunders, and David Ohle, in no particular order.


Take More, or Less by Jp King

P: What’s on your plate for the next year?  Any new developments and exciting events?

See the free soap opportunity mentioned below at Nota Bene on Wednesday, February, 23rd! I’m also working on a few writing projects, a pair of sister novellas, one in collaboration with Kirsten McCrea, called Times are Tough in the Pants Monarchy, and a book of spam poetry titled The End of Digestion. I have a residency for Fall 2011 in Dawson City, at the KIAC center, and I’m in talks with Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto about a Paper Pusher/Nomadesk Residency. Publishing books with a few other folks and ongoing collaborations. An original collage in the upcoming Works On Paper show at the Redbird Gallery (Jan. 29th). A dream list of book projects longer than I’ll ever make. Work, and lots of it. Hopefully some sleep. And I’d like to do some traveling with purpose, more residencies, and exploration/production missions. I’d also like to put more art on your walls and more stories in you hands.

P: Where can people find your work?

Start with the upcoming issue of Papirmasse! Then go to, then Then mark off Wednesday, February, 23rd as my exhibition of books and prints opens at Nota Bene (6-8 pm, 3416, avenue Du Parc). I’ll be giving away free soap and artist-prints while supplies last. Then tie your shoes and go to Monistiraki in Montreal’s Mile End to see some prints, and while you’re there check out some of my books at nearby Drawn & Quarterly. Go visit Concordia’s Co-op Bookstore downtown and The Word to see some of my poetry. In Toronto go to Type Books and sometime soon to Function13 in Kensington Market. In Halifax visit The Eyelevel Gallery’s bookstore. In Victoria visit Regalia. I’m trying to be at as many zine/book/print/craft fairs as possible these days. Visit your local craft fairs and see what your neighbours are making. And make sure that you support your local booksellers and print galleries. Tell the owners what you like and develop a relationship with the people who sell the things you like. They are an endangered species and they require everyone’s support to remain accessible and alive.