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Artist in Residence: Saxon JJ Quinn

Artist in Residence: Saxon JJ Quinn
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Over the past few months artist Saxon JJ Quinn’s work has criss-crossed the globe, making appearances at exhibitions in New York, Madrid, Los Angeles and Copenhagen. But this September, Saxon’s sights will be set on Sydney where he’ll show a new body of work at Sydney Contemporary, Australasia’s leading contemporary art fair. Saxon’s solo show History Repeating will open at Saint Cloche, and in the lead up Saxon joins our Artist in Residence series with FREEDOM (2022), which will be on display at Assembly Label Paddington until September 11.

 

Saxon JJ Quinn has had a busy couple of years. Very busy. For starters, he relocated from Melbourne to the Northern Rivers with his wife Cinthia, a move motivated by the promise of warmer weather, far less traffic and a persistent desire for change. Their family grew, too, with the arrival of baby girls Luna and then Nina. And then there’s the ever-present call of the canvas, the burgeoning interest from local and international buyers, and the art shows all over the world. “Time is not what it once was,” laughs Saxon.
Those familiar with Saxon’s work will recall the concrete monoliths that shaped his earlier practice. Like New York, a city he’d once called home, the material carried its patina proudly, resiliently, beautifully worn down over time but not overcome by it. The motifs, marks and symbols painted onto Saxon’s concrete surfaces dialled into the frequencies of his environment and his mind, at first appearing chaotic but slowly revealing something more composed, like musical notes on a stave that could be a secret code or a symphony.
Photography Kasia Werstak
Saxon continues to work with paint and graphite, but he’s swapped the concrete for canvas. One practical reason for the change, he says, “was due to the interest overseas and how hard it was to get the works shipped when using cement”. It also hints at the lightness that comes with finding creative freedom and releasing inhibitions. “The style of work I was creating on cement suited that, but where I wanted to go was more appropriate for canvas. My works are much more organic in terms of how I approach them now,” Saxon says. “I've allowed myself to free-up a lot more with how I paint, encouraging mistakes and errors within the works to give each piece its own authentic language and presence. For a long time I had a lot of hesitation in this, I felt that I was an imposter in the art world and that I didn't deserve or wasn't yet good enough to paint without hesitation.”
History Repeating is comprised of ceramics, sculptural seating and paintings that capture the daydreams and drawings of his youth. “These pieces are definitely the next clear step in my artistic journey,” Saxon shares. For this body of work, Saxon mined the corners of his childhood imagination and journals, his memories of friends and family. “I was lucky enough that mum kept a load of my old journals, from as early as four years old,” he says. “I often reference characters and markings from these journals in current works.” Mixed in with those pirates, cowboys, cars, kites and kisses are recurring motifs and ideas from current sketch pads, which he paints straight onto the canvas.
Photography Kasia Werstak
Photography Kasia Werstak
The autobiographical nature of Saxon’s recent works can be attributed to his two daughters. “The kids have definitely been a reason for me to go back and reference the journals from my childhood.” He’s also fearlessly embraced colour. “I definitely began to use more colour after having our first child, Luna. I had always shied away from colour as I was worried about ruining the piece, but as mentioned, allowing myself to loosen up makes it easier to explore.” As his children grow older, he says, “I’ll encourage them to play and paint in the studio with me”. These days, Saxon’s studio occupies a built space below their Northern Rivers home, allowing him more time with his family and the chance to start surfing, which is now part of his morning routine. “I suck at it,” he quickly adds, “but it has been fantastic”.
Saxon’s solo show History Repeating will be on display at Saint Cloche Gallery in Paddington from September 7–10 for Sydney Contemporary. At the same time, six of his works will be showing at KIAF (Korea International Art Fair) in Seoul. And this November, another solo exhibition will open at Melbourne gallery At The Above. 

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