The thing about Julia Thompson's recent work, including her participatory performance work in London recently with fellow artist Catherine Barber, is that it would have been marvelous to experience, and we can only now find artifacts and remnants to suggest what the experience was -- much like visiting any home and finding objects and documents that suggest a unique of a way of life. I love the handmade soaps and paintings made from food eaten directly off a tablecloth, which she recently included in a collaborative performance in an AirBnb in London. She chats with me about that project here, and be sure to find much more at the links after!
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First, I'd like to know a bit about you -- can you introduce yourself?
Hi!! My name is Julia Thompson and I’m 20 years old. I’m from Toronto, Canada, but have spent over the past two years living in New York for my studies. As of recent, however, I’ve temporarily moved to London to study abroad.
What first interested you in art, and especially in making it yourself?
I root in a fashion background, and when I was younger found myself more interested in the documentation of the work than the garments themselves and the technical process fashion design requires. That led to majoring in Fine Arts at Parsons! Fashion does come up sometimes in my work through my engagement with materiality and tactility. Investigating and experimenting with materials and their uncontrollability has been a long standing interest of mine.
If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?
Obsessive, curious and uncanny
You work across various media, including painting and video, among others. Can you explain some more about your practice? What kind of ideas are you exploring?
Across my practice (regardless of medium as I don't like to think of it segregated that way) theres a constant motivation in producing a kind of painterly form. I often refer to my video and film works as paintings because of the various strategies I employ. As of recent, I’ve been exploring ideas around defamiliarizing the familiar and documenting performance unconventionally. Working with documentary in a very personal and raw way has also been apart of that.
Since moving to London I’ve been hosting dinner parties with different groups of people (friends, friends of friends, strangers, peers, etc.) where the guests eat directly onto silk table cloths. The shared experience is tracked by the silk surface, creating a kind of abstract painting. The table cloth becomes the only form of documentation and acts as a food fossil or map. The table cloth paintings have many forms they can embody such as pillows, tents, clothing, conventional paintings and quilts. Its this ongoing cycle. I find that friction between abstraction and evidence very interesting. Additionally, the abandonment of the camera strengthens the work by expanding upon multiple perspectives.
What is the thing that intrigues you or challenges you the most about what you do?
Working with found materials and objects that contain information that people often ignore and I can share/revalue. Allowing materials, marks, residue, remnants and stains to communicate these narratives and languages is simultaneously intriguing and challenging.
Do you do any research or preparation before beginning a new piece?
Yes and lots of it! I try to think of everything as research. I find walking around for an hour just as important as watching a film, reading a text or seeing a show.
What do you do if you find yourself at a creative standstill?
Lots of things - look back through old work and try and draw connections. Write everything out and talk through ideas with friends.
You're currently enrolled at Parsons in New York, but have spent the semester in London at Chelsea College of Arts -- how has this study experience influenced you and your work?
Since moving to London I’ve been working with my roommate quite closely, artist - Catherine Barber. We put on a show together in an Airbnb and in the works of planning another one! I’ve never worked so closely to someone and its been an incredible experience.
Can you recall the best advice you've received so far?
Learning to be tough enough to hold your own and defend your work confidently while also listening and considering advice/criticism.
What do you need most, or value most, as an artist?
Walking around and exploring - being curious and thinking about everything as relevant and useful. I don't need to be in a studio or necessarily want to be in one all day. My favorite kind of research comes from walking around, collecting, seeing and investigating. Talking to people as well - with my work I value the opinion of a“non-artist” just as much as an “artist”.
What are you working on right now?
As mentioned above, working on another show with Catherine Barber. We’re interested in continuing the show to Toronto and New York down the line and allowing it to adapt based on the context and space itself.
Anything else you would like to add?
Here is a description on our last show, ‘Exactly Like the Pictures’
Artists Catherine Barber and Julia Thompson intertwined their practices to create an immersive experience challenging the familiar. The show was held in a strangers home (Airbnb) and in a residential neighborhood to further disrupt common domesticity. More information can be found at https://www.exactlylikethepictures.info.
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To submit your work to the website and find other current opportunities to get involved, visit here!