Contemporary Charcoals:
Nic De Jesus

Capitalizing on the versatility of the charcoal medium, South African artist Nic De Jesus plays powerfully with atmospheric perspective in his work, blending his photographer's eye with his innate innovative approach to artistic production. De Jesus generously took the time to answer our questions about his art, the responses to which are featured in this week's installment of the "Contemporary Charcoals" interview series. For more information on De Jesus, including additional examples of his work, please visit his website.

Contemporary Charcoals

Nitram Charcoal (NC): What is the last art show that you saw? What did you take from it?

Nic de Jesus (NJ): Here in Brighton, we have a festival called "The Artists Open Houses." It affords the opportunity to go into artists' ateliers, homes, studios, garages, and so forth. I love it - It's like going to many art shows in one day, and you get to have great conversations with the individual makers. I recently went to a local artist Dion Salvador Lloyd's show during this year's festival and I absolutely loved the way his show was curated, even if it was just in his home. The presentation, literature and the benefit of chatting with the artist made the whole experience wonderful and left me inspired to develop even more within the presentation of my work.

NC: What is your favorite collection to visit? What collection/museum in on your visit wish list?

NJ: At the moment, I really enjoy visiting London's National Gallery - in particular the 17th century collection. I would also like to return to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Contemporary Charcoals

MI Canto I.II

NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media?

NJ: It's just a wonderful medium and I never get bored of it. I don't have to wait for it to dry, I can work wet if I want to, and I can mix other mediums into it.

NC: What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?

NJ: Pretending not to see all the charcoal powder that's left around the studio after a session in front of the easel! Then tracing back around the studio, all the black finger prints I've left throughout the day...

Contemporary Charcoals

MI Canto I.III

NC: What is one thing you cannot live without in the studio?

NJ: Natural light.

NC: What is the strangest response you've ever received for a piece?

NJ: To be honest, I've not received responses to my work that I would consider 'strange'. There's always something exciting about feedback - something slightly scary too!

NC: Do you collect art? Whose works hang on your walls?

NJ: I would love to collect art and I do have a list of artists whose work I'm looking forward to collecting in the future. Right now, though, space is a premium.

Contemporary Charcoals

MI Canto I.IV

NC: If you could buy any one work of art, what would it be, and why?

NJ: It would have to be Rembrandt's The Jewish Bride. That touch, that delicate yet emotionally charged touch: there's a quietness to the painting, between the handling of the paint and the nuanced control of Rembrandt's limited palette. Personally, It's a reminder of the difference between empathy and sympathy, love and the power of vulnerability. I'm just in awe; I have a visceral response to the work.

NC: What inspires you in the studio?

NJ: I like to listen to music, but it depends on the stage I'm at with a composition. I also listen to podcasts and audio books.

Contemporary Charcoals

NC: Tell us a bit about your background. What do you consider your greatest artistic accomplishment?

NJ: I'm originally from a surfing community in South Africa and was introduced to the world of image making while working for sports publications and assisting a sports photographer. I then emigrated to the UK – on somewhat of a creative pilgrimage. Photography was to take up much of my journey with a body of work titled Till Then.. Drawing has always been an integral part of my artistic structure and at the beginning of 2015 I began another body of work titled Mare Incognitum. It was presented in the form of a solo exhibition in Brighton, UK. The show was accompanied by an originally composed album titled Seascapes by James Fiddes Smith. I would say this is my greatest artistic accomplishment.

Contemporary Charcoals

NC: What do you define as "being creative"? How to seek that creativity in your work?

NJ: For me, ultimately it's about knuckling down and making something. As for seeking creativity, I find it extremely beneficial to have a pretty strict routine to my day. It's not for everyone!

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