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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Photograph of a man in shadow working on a print at a table

Artist in Focus: Jake Garfield

[ Artist in Focus, Artist Interview, Stories )

We caught up with artist Jake Garfield whose work, ‘Man Holding a Picture’, was chosen for our exhibition, Sanctuary Selects: Voices from our Community.

Can you tell us about your artistic journey and what led you to primarily work with printmaking?

I was introduced to printmaking while studying on a BA in Painting at Brighton. One of the visiting tutors was Tom Hammick, a great painter and printmaker. He arranged for a friend and I to take part in a 4-month exchange at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – something Tom had also done as a student – which was a transformative experience. I learned a huge amount about woodcut, etching and lithographic printmaking in their 24-hour studio and haven’t looked back.

After Brighton I went on to study for a post-grad scholarship at the Royal Drawing School and an MA in printmaking at the Royal College of Art.

Your work often reflects on the nature of artifice, selfhood, and the act of making. How do these themes influence your creative process?

I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship between artifice and reality – and the areas where the line is a bit blurry between the two. One device I often use to explore this is to include pictures within pictures, sometimes using different printmaking processes for the ‘world within a world’ so it feels like a different realm to the rest of the image. There are also figures shown applying make-up or making art – so the work becomes about itself or the act of creating in a way.


Print in black on beige background of a faceless figure holding a print of a man's face. In the background is a pattern of foliage and peacocks

Jake Garfield, Man Holding a Picture, 2020, Woodcut on Tan BFK Rives paper, 280 gsm, Golder Thompson Gift, Pallant House Gallery, Copyright The Artist.

Your woodcut series features a diverse range of subjects. Could you explain your choices in portraying these subjects and what messages or emotions you hope viewers will take away from your art?

I collect lots of different imagery as reference material for the woodcuts – from art history, film stills and online. Each piece has its own subject but there are thematic threads running through each project. For instance, the Emerging Artist series mostly shows people in the act of making or alongside artworks.

I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive about what a viewer should feel or think about when they see a work. I just know that I try to follow an internal compass as to where the piece needs to go when making it.

Your ‘Man holding a Picture’ was chosen for our Sanctuary Selects: Voices from our Community exhibition. Could you tell us a bit about this work and how it feels having it chosen for this exhibition?

I feel so grateful to the Sanctuary Selects group for choosing my work as part of this exhibition. The show is a fantastic initiative and it means a lot to know that it has connected with the group, their interpretation is beautiful.

You’re a tutor at the Royal Drawing School and lead workshops with the Royal Academy. How does teaching and working with aspiring artists impact your own artistic practice?

I enjoy teaching. I spend so much time indulging in my own world in the studio so it’s useful to have the balance of teaching, where I can try to communicate what inspires me with other people. I learn at least as much from the students as they do from me.


Photograph of a man in shadow working on a print at a table

It’s impressive that your work is held in public and private collections, including The V&A, The Royal Collection, Pallant House Gallery, and The British Museum. Could you tell us about the significance of having your work in these esteemed institutions?

Having the work validated in this way gives me the belief to carry on working hard in the studio towards the next things. It’s great to think that the art can have its own life outside of my studio – and my head.

Art often evolves, and artists have different chapters in their careers. What can we expect from your future projects or any new directions you might explore in your art?

Right now I’m working a series of works made in response to Pierre Bonnard’s 1931 painting The Boxer. The Emerging Artist series consisted of works in the same medium and size. The new project still has woodcut at its core but will be made up of works at a range of scales and across different processes, including monotype and pastel drawings.

Finally, could you share any advice or insights for emerging artists looking to make their mark in the art world, based on your own experiences and successes?

Something a gallerist told me on graduating was: ‘it’s not the most talented artists that make it, it’s the ones who keep on going.’ So I would echo that. I found it challenging leaving art education and not having a secure income, an identity as an artist or much of a plan. It usually takes time to figure things out so patience is really important.


You can find out more about Jake Garfield on his website and follow him on Instagram here.

Sanctuary Selects: Voices from our Community runs until 4 February 2024.

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