February 2016: Trevor Jones
January 20th 2016
Curated by Danna Solomon.
Prior to dedicating himself to art full-time last year, Trevor served for nearly seven years at Art in Healthcare (AiH), first as Assistant Director and then as Director from 2011 to 2014. He reflects on his time there affectionately, noting his gratitude for the experience he gained and friends he met along the way: “And I was like, ‘This is amazing! This is exactly what I want. It’s in the arts sector, it’s an arts organisation that’s doing something positive, trying to improve health and wellbeing through art, everything that I’m interested in!’ So I applied for the job, and somehow, for some reason, they gave it to me, despite really tough competition… It’s so funny, I step back and think, ‘Who would’ve thought?’ That where I’m from..this little village of a thousand people, and to end up where I am today. I feel truly fortunate. I met some amazing people through the organisation, some very well connected people, which is always important for an artist.” AiH also brought Trevor to the Drill Hall, where the organisation has been based for over ten years. He says, “when I stepped down as Executive Director to focus on my painting, I had to move my studio from the AiH storage room. I was very lucky that another studio was just coming up, and it was not expensive at all.” Although the building has its quirks and challenges, Trevor is “hugely pleased” with Out of the Blue, and is very happy to be here.
Although a comparatively late adopter of fine art, Trevor says he was always an early adopter of technological innovations, in part because he was “interested in finding ways to communicate with friends and family back home” when he traveled and lived abroad in the late 90s. While his technophilia was instrumental in this way, it has also played heavily into his identity as an artist. He credits his eagerness to push the envelope with his work in this way to his upbringing in Canada: “I grew up in this tiny working class community, and my dad’s a mechanic, my brother-in-law’s a truck driver and my brother a park ranger; everything has a function, art really didn’t play any role. … I have a strong focus on: ‘What can I make art do?’ ‘How can I engage people in different ways?’” Trevor’s self-described “utilitarian” approach to art makes him fundamentally different from many artists, he says, and his unique perspective yields work considered “outside the box” of traditional painting in Scotland.
Among Trevor’s creative implementations of technology into his art are the use of MP3 players to immerse visitors into the musical experience and creative process of his synaesthesia-inspired exhibitions, QR code paintings that visitors scan to access a collaborative digital gallery with more than 500 artworks uploaded by artists around the world, and most recently, overlaying digital content onto his artwork using Augmented Reality (AR) software. Trevor’s tjARt app developed in collaboration with David Oxley, brings digital content including video, music, social links, text and images to, in this case, the painted world, creating a more immersive experience for the user, and an opportunity for artists to add “creative extensions” to their work, sharing information about themselves and their vision with their audience.
Trevor’s use of AR in his work has not come without backlash. Recently he digitally embedded fifteen images of his paintings into masterpieces on display in the National Gallery of Scotland, which received national attention. He stated (with a hint of pride and cheekiness), “I’m the only living artist with a permanent collection of paintings on display in the National Gallery.” Additionally, with his 2014 hijacking of the RSA Open Exhibition, Jones hoped to raise questions about the ownership of digital space. Reflecting on the experience and some of the negative reactions to the stunt, he says: “At first, I thought, ‘I’ve really dug my own grave, I’m going to have to leave town now…a number of artists didn’t take too kindly to me digitally embedding my artwork onto their RSA submission. … But if you’re an artist, a serious artist, and you know the history of art, you look at the movements…every movement is a reaction against the previous… I’m only doing what an artist should do: challenge the establishment and the status quo. I find the vast majority of painting these days to be irrelevant, to be honest, and so I’m only trying to find new ways to bring painting into the 21st century.”
Trevor’s newest project, the AR app Creativmuse, is due to launch this month, and will be available for use by other artists and creatives to add digital content to their own work. As with much of his work, however, Jones is aware that not everyone is going to be interested or happy about it. “It’s like when the camera was invented in 1839 and Eugene Delacroix was writing essays about why the camera is so bad, and it’s ‘not art,’ and it’s the downfall of creativity and humanity, etc. There’s going to be a reaction by the art world against augmented reality and Creativmuse,” he says. Despite the naysayers, he believes that this new technology “is the future for artists.” He says, “I see it as a brilliant opportunity for artists to not only add creative extensions and layers of meaning to their work, but also to be more creative with [how they] provide information… Buyers are interested in the story, [they] want to know about the artist…they want to know how [artists] make things, they want to know about creative process: to find out more about that ‘Hand of God’ that touches the artist, and proves amazing things happen.” All of us at the Drill Hall are excited to see what amazing thing is next for our resident troublemaker.