The following interview was conducted in May of 2016.
When did you start working on the collection of drawings that would become ‘Ode to heaven’ and what was their intended purpose initially?
I started drawing for the first time properly last year. I had ruled out any kind of art before that telling myself I was useless at it. I was frustrated with my life, I couldn’t write, I was dropping out of university. My friends gave me a job in their tattoo shop which was great but I felt jealous, I just wanted to make something, and was constantly surrounded by productive successful artists. At the start I would go out, come home slightly wasted and start to draw, when friends at the shop saw the stuff I’d been working on they were really supportive and it became something I just did. It came really quickly unlike the way I experienced writing and it gave me a sense of accomplishment so I carried on without thinking what they were for, it was just nice to get stuff out of my head. Later when I had more pages people said I should make a book, and that’s how this came about.
I think a lot of people struggle with finding a creative outlet for themselves and this notion that creating art or music or whatever is a natural ability certain individuals or “creative types” posses. But a lot of the art I am drawn to or find most rewarding is created by individuals that have a kind of fascination with relentless often simplistic repetition. This book explores a very specific theme and aesthetic. Could you walk me though the process that lead you to explore these images and perhaps how you developed a style you felt comfortable with?
I am, to my detriment most of the time, a believer in this natural ability for certain creative avenues. I let it weigh me down for a long time, except for writing in short bursts when I felt possessed by something outside of myself, I told myself I couldn’t paint/ draw/ make music because If I was going to be good at it I would have been good at it straight away. Last year I just got so desperate for something to happen I started to draw and paint despite myself. I saw people I really respect making things and I kept thinking why not try you’re going to die soon and you’ve done nothing. There is a lot of death, devils self mutilation and this is a part of my brain i wish wasn’t there a lot of the time. When I’m not feeling great this is the sort of stuff i’d write about and when I started to draw this was just the crude things that came out, it was just more based in traditional depictions of these things and I think I picked that up from being around Simon and looking at stuff by William blake and other religious art. At first I’d be wasted and wouldn’t be thinking about it but later something morbid would come into my head when I was walking around or working and I’d try my best with my limited ability to put it on the page how it looked in my head, or I’d see something awful looking and want to draw something like it, the style came about on its own I see my self as distorted a lot so when I drew these disfigured anatomically incorrect figures i was happy they were there, and then I couldn’t really shade properly so I’d scratch away or fill stuff in black. I just did what I thought looked ok. The book shows the first stuff I was drawing and I think I’m still trying to find my feet. Half the time I’d draw similar things because I wanted to be suddenly better at it because I’d already drawn something similar.
Where did the title 'Ode to heaven’ come from?
There is duality in everything and I feel like angels are with me sometimes but often not and then devils. I wanted the title to be something nice, and to give this book to something good.
Where did you draw influences from for this collection?
Simon Erl, William Blake and other religious artwork from the last couple of centuries. Also black metal tape artwork proved to me that I didn’t have to be good I just had to draw
How has working at Dharma tattoo and being surrounded by people such as Simon Erl and Joe chatt influenced your aesthetic and shaped you personally?
Working at The Dungeon and now Dharma has saved me and I’ll be forever grateful. I’m not cut out for a much, but these places have given me time, triggered a need in me to create and in doing so have given me a needed sense of purpose. Simon Joe and all the boys I’ve worked with have shown me you can do anything if you’re honest with your subject matter and driven. They encourage
If 'ode to heaven’ was accompanied by a soundtrack what songs would be included?
The desperate screams from the middle of Blandt Grå Monumenter by sortsind
Does your personal beliefs and ideas shape or influence this collection or is it a purely aesthetic fascination?
I don’t believe in exploiting this kind of aesthetic for your own ends if it’s not something you truly feel. I came at this sort of thing when I was younger thinking that I wouldn’t go near satanic artwork because i didn’t feel entitled to it, I was atheist and felt there was nothing and didn’t want to pretend. Growing up I’m not so sure I feel like devils live in my brain and I think they do for a lot of people I don’t separate devils and demons from everyday life anymore, I think they’re inside people and in life. In that way I don’t feel like I need to subscribe to anton lavey or any other fucker that wants to tell me how Satan acts or how I should act for Satan. I feel swallowed by it completely. I’m Not trying to be evil, I draw the things that are are in my head or that I see reflect the way I am feeling or the world.
Do you think this duality reflects a dialectic monism and that these seemingly opposing forces are actually complimentary or are they simply at war with one another with no transcendental unity?
It’s hard to say I don’t know who’s looking out for me, an angel saved me once but I don’t know if that was kind or not. School told me that they are at war and I’m still struggling with it. I think there is a certain type of devil and demon that is disgusting and destroys and I don’t think anything good would want to be in a balanced whole with that. So i look at this stuff as there in the depths, and there is some lighter black on top of it and then some white where I’d like to be most of the time.
You mentioned living amongst Devils and demons both internally and externally within society and the world but mentioned the duality and wanting to give the book to something good. I was curious why you choose to explore only the darker or more sinister side of this idea through your art?
I feel like I’m always looking down at it, the devils are closer so they’re easier to draw, I wish heaven could hold me and that I could draw all this stuff out of my system, if you give the bad up to the good theres a chance you could feel better.
To keep up with Jack's artwork follow him @jacksabbat