Painter Jameson Green has learned a lot from hip hop. Specifically how it adapted languages from other musical genres, and folded them into its own, to create an entirely new experience.
"I always thought why can’t you do that in painting?" he tells Artspace. "What if I just embrace these people, and respectfully absorb and learn from them; not do it falsely as if you’re copying those artists, but really know it and live through it. You can take that thing that on and it becomes your flavor."
This approach–not being afraid to reference the greats, while creating something entirely unique of his own–has seen him become one of the most acclaimed young painters at work today.
In the second part of our interview with Green ( You can read part one here ) coinciding with the launch of an Artspace/ Independent edition Cain and Abel I, II, III , he tells us about how music, family history and a love of comic book art from his childhood all feed into his outstanding drawings and paintings. We started by asking him about his different approaches to those two mediums.
"Drawing for me has always been like riding a wave. I sit down and I draw and within an hour I have a whole engaged narrative. It feels like I’m just along for the ride."
"In my last few paintings my approach to painting has started to mirror my approach to drawing. I’ll start marking and drawing it out, painting it out on the surface, and filling out the composition and just intuitively reacting to it; just really starting to pull things out of my imagination, based on what I’m seeing. And from that, creating the image."
"Lately with the paintings it’s been very much the same thing. And that’s liberating, it’s really fun. I feel like a new painting I finished yesterday just grew into this very outlandish, fun, melody of paint that just felt good."
What do you put that down to? Confidence? Things snapping into focus? "I think it’s a combination really. I would say confidence with drawing. The fact that I was willing to just draw on to a stone (for the edition ) with relative permanence and not even think twice about it and just act on it, was something. Because I would have had to go through a lot to really erase it."
The stone used for the Jameson Green limited edition - photograph by Nir Arieli
"With a drawing I feel I have such an array of tools in my set that I can use, that I can just push, pull, and bring into play whenever I like. There’s this real freedom there in expressing. For me, painting is much younger. I’ve only been painting for ten years - I’ve been drawing my whole life. So I’m still really young in terms of being a painter. Painters I admire didn’t really get into their space until they were in their late 30s, some of them in their 40s."
In common with the new edition, a lot of your recent work ecompasses themes of family, either overtly or subliminally, Mourning Mother, 2022 , and Cronos , 2022 spring to mind. " That’s interesting you brought that up. Not many people bring that up. I think it reflects a lot of my morals in terms of how much importance I put on family. I do find it to be a great cornerstone in my life. I have a strong family behind me, even with all the trouble - my mother and father divorced - but yet there’s this real sense of strength in terms of connectivity and willingness to support one another."
"When I look at some of the worst things that have happened in human history, you can trace a lot of those issues, those cracks starting to show in the family. I think it’s such a great platform to talk about real human issues on a global level."
An experience that’s universal yet, at the same time, intrinsically unique. " Exactly. It’s so connected. It’s such a direct line to the past. You become part of a lineage and you participate in this grand narrative, whether you like it or not. The action you do from the second you’re born is now part of that and you will pass it on one way or another. I just love how it’s such a microcosm of human experience in tragedy and, in many cases, even our best moments too. Yeah, it’s a moral thing."
Music – for some people an alternative family – plays a part too. Lots of the paintings reference song titles, Castles Made of Sand (Jimi Hendrix), Numbers on the Board (Pusha T) Nina Simone… " Pusha T is one of my favorites! Exactly yeah, yeah, yeah. Music plays such a critical role in my life. I actually think of color in a lot of ways like sound. It’s a really interesting thing. When I look at form and line I compare it in a lot of ways, I make a lot of comparisons to melody, how these things sonically fuse together and really create a dynamic painting. Music has always been really, really, close to my heart."
"My mother was a music teacher for a long time. She had us playing instruments for the church. I played the guitar for ten years, took music lessons. My brother is a composer and a soloist; my sister is a writer and a musician. I grew up in church."
"I love great writing, great lyrics. Just from the imagery alone and when it accompanies music, I find it very profound. It’s almost like taking titles that you can snatch a sound and apply it to a painting that has no sound."
"In a lot of cases I like the double meanings. How you perceive the painting. With a song like Numbers on the Board it can be perceived cynically, or you could start to view it as almost boisterous of the artist; like they’re a confident player. I use a lot of that in the studio for myself. I go on a roller-coaster of emotion."
Jameson Green at work on Cain and Abel I - photographed by Nir Arieli
There’s also an undercurrent of dark humor in your work. You use the word cynical, but it appears pithier than that." Yeah. Yeah. Right. That’s great that you said that. I’ve been allowing myself to do more of that. More so with my recent paintings."
"I was big into comics as a child. I would draw my own cartoons and comics all the time. In a lot of cases, they contained pretty dark humor. One of the people I admire is Robert Crumb, and specifically his ability to address even the most personal, and sometimes most hypocritical, elements of yourself."
"To really just show that, almost with no filter - it’s just so vulnerable. There’s a scene in that Eminem film, 8 Mile, when his character comes to play at the rap battle. He’s going up against these guys who know all the dirt on him, and he’s thinking: I can rap better than them, but if I keep all this a secret, then I give them the power to be able to come out with this information, and then I lose."
"So he gives them all his dirty laundry. There’s something really powerful about that, and the willingness to be judged. Let it happen, because it’s going to happen regardless of whether you want it to happen or not. It’s about taking that power back and accepting yourself in all your flaws. Yes, I’m not a perfect project. Judge me. That is always on the go through my work. I’m growing a lot more comfortable with being myself."
A lot of the images tie into history or art history through the use of dates in the titles or through visual reference to iconic artists. With titles such as Summer of 1863 , Summer of '98 the viewer feels compelled to consider a specific moment in time. " History was the only class I always got ‘A’s in. Everything else I’d do just enough to pass but with history I was captivated. Even to this day, for me one of the best ways to relax is to watch a documentary; primarily, histories of how countries come together, how wars are fought and how characters have their own stories within that."
"It's almost like this giant theatrical experience. Something intimately happening in someone’s life growing and turning into something else and then it pours over and falls into someone else’s life. So you have this domino effect of experiences coming together. I find it fascinating to look into that and the consequences of what’s going on within all that at the same time. It’s like watching a movie."
Recently I went to a talk with Dana Schutz and Jason Fox at the Kordansky gallery. Jason Fox has a lot of the same influences as myself, so I was fascinated how he went off in a completely different direction. He brought something interesting when he talked about how he wanted to avoid or move away from these artists, not be in the shadow of these artists."
"I thought it’s interesting because in music you don’t want to avoid the shadow, it’s almost as if you want to marry yourself into the shadow. So what if I just embrace these people, and respectfully absorb and learn from them; not do it falsely as if you’re copying those artists but to really know it and live through it? You can take that thing that on and it becomes your flavor."
"Plenty of times I might think I want to paint my Picasso today or I’m really feeling Van Gogh right now, or I want to paint like Dana Schutz. As that’s been going through my head I’m started thinking what if I just take pieces of all of them?"
Take a closer look at the various edition offerings here and keep an eye on Artspace for part three of our interview with one of the most exciting young painters at work today.