ADVENTurous is an open submission exhibition exploring the christmas narrative, which we're staging in 3 UK venues during advent this year : at Engedi in Colwyn Bay, Leftbank in Leeds and the Union Chapel in Islington, London.

The work exhibited at Union Chapel will also be part of the one-day ‘ADVENTurous' conference, hosted by Greenbelt Festival and partners.

On this blog we'll be posting regular updates about how plans for the Leftbank Leeds show are progressing, with information about the contributing artists, and possibly some previews of the work being created for the exhibition...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Introducing Rhys Jones

Left Bank: Hello and it’s really exciting to have you on board for ADVENTurous this year.
Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself  - I am guessing you are from Wales and I’d love to know where that beautiful black and white image of a Welsh bay on your website is?

RJ: I was actually born in London! My father’s side of our family is from Aberystwyth but my mother’s side of the family comes from Dundee in Scotland. Both sides of the family migrated to London in the early part of the 20th Century. I was given a Welsh name and I’ve always felt a stronger interest to the Welsh side of our family mainly because of my grandfather telling me stories about his early life and also my father telling me about the time he spent in Aberystwyth as an evacuee at the family home during WWII. I moved to Swansea in 1994 also for work reasons.
I am influenced by the landscape and space of Wales and traditions and way of life but I also travel with an open mind and am influenced by other cultures and ways of life.

The image on my website is of Worm’s Head, Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula. I often go there and take photographs as the light is wonderful and constantly changing.

Left Bank: Could you tell us a little about the greatest influences on your photography?
RJ: My photographic influences are varied but my initial awakenings were from the images of Dorothea Lange of the Great Depression in the US in the 1930s, the great black and white landscapes of Ansel Adams, the images of Henri Cartier-Bresson, the experimental work of Man Ray, the portraits of Jane Bown, and more recently the work of many more have become influential as I developed some of my own work and thinking – Don McCullin, Ed van der Elsken, David Hurn, Robert Capa, Richard Avedon,  Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Bill Brandt, John Blakemore, Paul Strand, Robert Doisneau and many more….but also influential on my own work has been the work of artists in other media like David Hockney, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol and writers and philosophers like Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and Jacques Derrida and the developments in fields of study such as semiotics. 

Left Bank: I was interested that although you are a visual artist and photographer you had pasted the lovely opening lines from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood,  ‘To begin at the beginning; it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starlit and bible black…’  He described the work as a ‘play for voices’ – but it is a play  where the words create strong visual images.. Is this relation between our imagination and what we actually see interesting to you? 

RJ: I am interested in all forms of communication – written, verbal, musical, visual, and forms that use signs and pictures such as Egyptian Hieroglyphics and International Sign Language as they stimulate different areas of our imagination and give us the power to express ourselves in different ways – we all have different degrees of being able to express ourselves in these forms and sometimes to find out what someone is really trying to communicate we may need to interpret each area. 

Left Bank: I am interested to see you describe yourself as a researcher as well as an artist and photographer? Could you say a bit about what you research and how it melds with your artistic work? 
RJ:  I think we are all constantly learning and accumulating information as we travel on our journeys through life. Skills such as being a photographer and artist may be of benefit to those with skills in other areas such as medicine or neuroscience. One of my aims as an artist is not just to make a statement but to make a statement that may provide value to help someone else solve a problem or make someone’s life easier or happier. 

Left Bank: Do you always work in black and white and if so why? 

RJ I do a lot of work in black and white but not exclusively. Black and white, for me, provides a sense of timelessness in images and emphasizes contrast, structure and texture. Colour can be a means to stimulate interest and there are situations where that can be of value for an artist for a point they are making in their work – for example if the sea or water is red with blood.

Left Bank: You describe yourself as interested in the connections between art and neuroscience and in ‘offering some non-scientific explanations to explain and help diagnose and treat some of the mysteries of conditions on the autism spectrum.’ Could you say a bit more about why autism interests you and how this interest shows itself in your artistic work?
RJ: I have a personal interest as my younger son has been diagnosed as Asperger Syndrome and I have been through a lot of the testing process myself as parents are asked a lot of questions in order to establish any possible family links. My son often sees and is sensitive to things that other people are not – one particular example is a fondness and appreciation of all animals – and things in life don’t always seem straightforward and connections are not made in certain circumstances. 

A lot of my own work does not have an obvious connection and I believe art sometimes follows a course rather like walking around a maze and coming out the other side not necessarily following the course intended but discovering quite a lot on the way. I am keen to explore this further as it may help me communicate better with my son and help me to understand how he may feel about the world around him. The key though is not to be obtrusive in my research and make either me or my son or anyone else feel the centre of attention as I think that would have the effect of driving people further away.

Left Bank: You also say you have a research interest in ‘understanding further what is or maybe happening in our minds and bodies when we engage in an artistic activity - taking a photograph, drawing, painting, sketching, writing a poem or story, composing and playing music, making a sculpture or thinking about all those activities when performing other routine daily activities or watching or listening to the work of others.’ Could you perhaps unpick this a little and explain how you translate this interest into your work?
RJ: I am very keen to get people’s reaction to my work and others’ work and try and document that in some way – a visitor book is perhaps the simplest way of doing this. I am not so good myself at describing how I feel about what I do. People frequently say they don’t like being photographed or they don’t like a photograph I have taken of them – so I always try and explore that if people are willing to talk about it. 

I often find, though, that people don’t always want to talk about things like this on one-to-one basis but are often ok to write about in a blog or on social media where there is an audience and people viewing or listening but there is no way of knowing if anyone in particular has viewed or read what one has written. I guess it like sending a postcard – you don’t actually know if the recipient has received and read the card or if it has fallen into the gaze of someone else. 

Left Bank: You have a history of working in collaboration with many other artists –  why is this so attractive to you  - and is it something you will be bringing to ADVENTurous?

RJ: I enjoy collaborating with other artists – I’ve worked a lot with musicians, writers, poets and other visual artists over the years – not always in a formal way, sometimes in a loose collaboration. I will seek to bring this to ADVENTurous.
Left Bank: You describe your submission to Adventurous intriguingly as an  ‘annual risk assessment statement (magi journey)’ .. could you say a bit more about what you mean
RJ: When I read the brief, I though of the biblical story associated with the three wise men or Magi embarking on a journey with gifts to visit the newly born Jesus. This is something that the Christian (and increasingly other beliefs and faiths) are coming to celebrate each year. There is a symbolic element of renewal in this annual celebration – renewal of faiths and beliefs – not only in religion or beliefs but also in ourselves and our ability to have survived another year despite the many dangers and setbacks that can occur in our lives.
We also use the opportunity, especially at New Year to look ahead to the next year in our lives, to make plans and to enjoy the celebrations with others and of others. The Government publishes the Annual Budget Statement (or Red Book) which is a formal look back at the past year and forecast forward for the next year, taking into account risk factors which may effect the economy.
In my work, I am aiming to make an artistic statement which looks back artistically while a journey is being made; Looks at some of the hopes, dreams, plans that we may have; looks at gifts we may decide to give ourselves (material and otherwise) and thinks ahead to next year and where we might be going or what we might be doing. Life is a continual journey and we have to use tools that will help us plan and deal with risks – art, faith and hopes can all be part of this….it is also mysterious and links cannot always be made or guaranteed…..A play on words is possible – MAGI, MAGIC, IMAGINE, IMAGE – maybe one of these helps us understand…..
Left Bank: From the same statement – can you give us a hint as to what the ‘Ministry’ may be?! Do you mean ministry in a faith context?! Is faith important to you?
RJ:  I think that is for the viewer to decide themselves and what the work says to them! I’ll leave that as a mystery for now! My own view is that faith and belief, in whatever form it may take, is important for all of us….it may always be there but sometimes it can jump out of the shadows and often be present but we don’t always realize it. Sometimes we have to go to others for help to interpret the signs. Often those signs are in our creative work and expressed that way rather than verbally.
Left Bank: What are your thoughts on Advent as a theme? Did it inspire you?
RJ: Advent as a theme implies something exciting coming that we are waiting for.
Left Bank: What else are you working on at the moment?
RJ: I have some work in an exhibition starting on Friday November 9 continuing until 24 November: Hullabaloo – Elysium Gallery’s 5th Birthday Party ( Swansea). I have a studio in Elysium’s art space.
I am also working on a project in Sweden, to be curated by a friend who is the Director the Sundsvall Photo Museum. He’s asked 20 photographers to come and take a photo of a Swedish Rock band called Jetbone in the style of one of their favourite photographer or artist. I have chosen as my artist Or rather group of Artists to pay homage to : Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis who did a lot of work with Pink Floyd Album covers…
My other projects include working with musicians and poets as part of my ongoing project ‘Artist in the Landscape’
I am also working with a group of artists called ‘Commensalis’ planning group exhibitions in 2013. We held a show in Walcot Chapel Bath in 2012. Check our website for details

Rhys Jones recent photograph above was taken in Sweden and is of Israel Goodman Young or Izzy Young (born 26 March 1928) a noted figure in the world of folk music, both in America and Sweden.

RJ: He organized Bob Dylan's first concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York City on November 4th 1961. Young lost over $200 promoting Dylan's first concert, but he was able to persuade the 19-year-old to accept $10 in pay for his efforts.
Since then he has presented the debut concerts for hundreds of musicians, many of whom are now famous, such as Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris and Tim Buckley.

 Rhys Jones’ website at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interview opportunity and also the opportunity to take part in a very exciting group show! Best wishes Rhys