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Meet artist Rejectamental - aka Jax from the Library!

Posted by. Sophie Banks
Posted on 04 July 2018

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​​Library staff member Jax Temple-Smees aka Rejectamental, is a self-taught artist currently exhibiting with the New Light Art Prize Exhibition in Carlisle, and at the HEART centre in Headingley.

Level 4 Journalism student Sophie Banks met with Jax to find out more about her role at Leeds Trinity, her career as an artist and how she balances both in her day-to-day life. 

When did you first start creating artwork and what or who inspired you?

I guess I've always been doing art of one sort or another and it was my favourite subject at school (I even won a couple of art competitions). My mum and dad are both very creative – my dad is a blues musician and dabbles in sculpture and bookbinding and my mum designs and sews clothing, so I was exposed to the creative arts from a very early age and encouraged to engage with them.

I finally decided to take the plunge and enter the art world around five years ago. I had been making art jewellery using found objects for a couple of years, but realised that my ambitions outstripped the dimensions of conventional body decoration!

My favourite artist is Joseph Cornell, another self-taught artist who created beautiful, strange and mysterious 'assemblages' out of dime store objects and paper cuttings. I first saw examples of his work at the Tate Britain, and immediately fell in love with them. I am drawn to art that contains a narrative. Reading and storytelling have featured heavily in my life, especially folk and fairy tales (the proper Grimm ones). Other artists I admire include Leonora Carrington, William Blake, Frida Kahlo, Eduardo Paolozzi, Madge Gill, Hannah Hoch, Cornelia Parker and Ai Weiwei.

What was the reason behind your art name Rejectamental?

Once I had decided to move from jewellery making to art, I also decided I wanted to use a name that reflected my ethos and practice. For me my art is separate, it's something I engage in in my own time and on my own terms. A friend had described the items I used as 'rejectamenta'; a term popular in Victorian times meaning 'things or matter rejected as useless or worthless', which perfectly summed up the broken dolls and bits of weathered wood I am drawn to.

'Rejectamental' describes my approach and ethos when making art. 

I use things discarded by society in an attempt to counter the mentality of mass consumption and waste. 

It also relates to my self-taught status, which can be a barrier when applying for exhibitions or competitions, and my use of art as a form of therapy to help treat my depression.

What is your favourite piece of artwork that you have created and what is the meaning behind it?

My favourite piece of artwork began while listening to music in my studio. It is based on a song by Tom Waits, written with the beat poet William Burroughs, for a musical based on a German folk tale called 'The Fatal Marksman'. My version is an interpretation of a version of a translation of a story… I spent around 18 months on-and-off working on the piece, titled 'Just The Right Bullets', and it is definitely the closest I have to come to being completely satisfied with my work. The piece hangs in my living room and frightens/entrances visitors!

Have you faced any challenges in the creation of your artwork?

Probably the biggest challenge is finding enough time and space to work! I recently moved from a small studio in my mother-in-law's garage to a fair-sized studio space in Horsforth where I am able to work on larger projects. Also, there are logistical challenges in creating mixed media work from found objects and recycled materials. You are constantly having to consider how to combine disparate materials to achieve a result that is satisfying and also safe to display!

You mentioned finding enough time, how do you manage working at Leeds Trinity, family and your artwork?

I work part time at Leeds Trinity and try to spend a couple of days in my studio during the week. My family are very understanding and don't seem to mind me filling up the house with artwork, charity shop purchases and car boot sale curiosities! When I have a lot of work on, say for an exhibition or proposal, I can spend many hours working until late into the night. Sometimes the kids will pop in and stay a couple of hours with me, and my husband will have a glass of wine ready for when I get home!

What advice would you give to students considering a career as an artist?

I am mostly self-taught as an artist, having found the academic approach to art to be counter-intuitive to my own way of experimenting and learning. I am very much an autodidact! 

I would advise anyone considering art as a career to follow their own instincts and create art that they love. If someone else loves it as well, that's great, but don't be restricted by what others perceive to be 'real art'.

What's next in terms of your artwork?

I hope to develop my practice further, experimenting with different formats and scales. I would love to move into installation work and sculpture, still using recycled and re-purposed materials.

I have three pieces in the fifth annual Sketch That group exhibition at HEART (Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre), which runs until 13 August 2018, and my piece 'Girl/Woman' (left) is touring as part of the New Light Art Prize Exhibition, for which I was shortlisted, and will be at Tullie House in Carlisle from 13 October 2018 – 27 January 2019.

What is your biggest ambition for your artwork/career?

I suppose the same as any artist – to be included in the collection of a prestigious gallery!

And finally, what do you enjoy most about working at Leeds Trinity?

I enjoy getting to know the students over their time here, and helping them to make the most of our fantastic resources. One of Leeds Trinity's great strengths is its community atmosphere. You really do feel that the staff and students appreciate you and the work you do. I also love the way the University engages with the local community, especially being a Horsforth Resident myself.