Jake Russell

13th Sep 2018

Hi Jake, we hope you're enjoying the coffee!

Hello Conch, I am, thanks, it’s getting me by.

1. Can you give us an introduction to your practice, interests and experiences?


2. Talk us through your working processes, what are you working on at the moment?

My brother, I’ve been told, was once asked at a family gathering “so what sort of things does Jake paint?”, and he replied “whatever he fancies really”. Well done Sam, summed it up better than I ever could. I struggle to talk about my practice without ending up using buzzwords and sounding like I’m trying to sell you something. And yet, here I am, so mainly I make paintings, drawings and videos.

Most recently, the paintings have been boats, trees, heads, angels, one of Pontius Pilate, fire, and some other things. The videos have been of a detective, goblins, a warrior, a guy going through a break up, and some other things. I don’t tend to have ideas before I make paintings, usually that leads to boring paintings, instead I just let my hands get on with it. It often feels like I’m after something which is just around the corner in my head, and I think that’s the way it should be.

3. We’ve been engaging with your work for some time now; most recently in January for your group show Fractal Paisleys at Embassy Gallery in Edinburgh. Can you tell us more about the relationship between your paintings and videos; do they play off each other or do you see them as separate parts of your practice?

That ‘recently’ and ‘January' are next to each other there really reveals my Achille’s heel; terrible at getting myself to exhibit work. It was great to be part of that show, it came along and gave me a focus at the perfect time, just as I was being demoralised by real life.

I make the paintings and videos very separately, I think.

With painting I figure out what’s going on just by starting and doing it, painting over things which aren’t right, starting over, hopefully discovering something by the end; there isn’t any planning to it. A video, or at least the sort I make, requires that I know where I’m going to be putting the camera, what I’m going to be saying, and generally how I’m going to edit it all together. Much more of a plan involved, however I try not to ask myself too many ‘why’s’, and instead trust that whatever image in my head I feel should be filmed is worth filming. In that sense, the paintings and videos are similar.

4. We’ve watched a couple of your videos on YouTube; does the process of making and delivering work online feel like an intimate one to you and how does it compare to showing work in a gallery space?

I’m not sure I like showing my videos in a gallery space. I don’t know about you, but when I confront a video in an exhibition, a certain sort of fear or dread begins creeping in, the feeling of ‘oh no, how long will I have to be here now?’, and every second I stay is another committed to watching, but instead of watching I’m wondering whether I’ve joined halfway in, or at the end, and whether the others who are here and were here before me will think poorly of me for just leaving at a random point in the video. Whether others feel this or not, I prefer that my videos might be watched on a sofa in some pressure-free comfort, from beginning to end, which being online is better suited for. However, I’m not sure Youtube is the right place for somewhat dense and sometimes confusing short story videos, and I don’t know yet how to reconcile that with wanting them seen online. Maybe Vimeo instead? Yeah, that solves it.

5. Can you tell us more about your most recent video, Void Detective?

Void Detective is about a detective who has been brought into the home of someone who is dead, and in the bath. He finds a clue (a Joker playing card), and knows that it belongs to a goblin, and has a dream about it. Once awake, he goes to the goblin’s lair to confront him, but the detective gets lost and is berated by the goblin for being incompetent. The likelihood is that it is about the ‘goblin within’. You know the one, I’m not sure what I reckon to the video, it has been a while since I have watched it (I may have even got the synopsis wrong). I think the simpler, the better, and Void Detective might not be simple enough, a bit too difficult to follow maybe, I’m not sure. But I like the character of the detective who is calm and collected until the end when he starts arguing with the goblin, who picks on petty things like being unable to cook red onions properly, which has been a problem for me in the past. Turns out you just need a bit more oil.

6. Who, where or what has you feeling excited at the moment? Who, where or what has you feeling concerned at the moment?

I’m excited about how much I’m enjoying eating chickpeas at the moment, but concerned that I might not be eating enough other vegetables. I wrote that the other day, and now it feels dishonest, I’m mostly concerned that I am squandering myself.


7. Are there any particular books or authors that you find yourself coming back to again and again, if so who are they and why? Recommend a book to our readers!

I read lots when I was younger. I loved Eragon, and I don’t recommend it to anybody. Especially not the terrible film adaptation, I don’t know what they were thinking with that. I have started reading again this year, after many years away from books. So far, Crime and Punishment was cracking, and I really enjoyed Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, which is about Billy Pilgrim, who has come unstuck in time.

8. Having graduated recently, has there been a noticeable change in pace from college life? Are you missing the communal studio setup or have you found an equivalent that works for you in Glasgow?

The biggest change, which I didn’t expect at all, was of lacking feedback. I didn’t realise how much I was used to a tutor or friend commenting on whatever I would make, and for a while after graduating I felt a bit lost and hopeless in how I would make something, maybe put it online, and that would be it. But, as with many things it was only a matter of adjustment. I don’t have a studio space, I may get one in the future, but for now I work alone in my room and that suits me well. Everything moves slower now, and I know much less than I did, I listen more to what I make rather than imposing myself onto it. While it was initially a difficult change, I think it has been for the better.

9. Can you reflect upon a pivotal work or project, one that has played a part in shaping your practice?

For a while I was jealous of videos because they move and make sound, and paintings didn’t do that. When I started making videos, I got that silly feeling out of my system, and came back to painting with a better perspective of the things it can do which videos can’t. So I’d say my first video was most pivotal, I think it is only available on my facebook profile, and is a short video of me talking about making a painting. It goes: “I’m just putting paint, on this here board”.

10. If you had unlimited access to resources and funding, is there a piece or project that you would like to realise?

I would like to make a feature length film, with all the bells and whistles, maybe about two door-to-door salesmen, who drive around, and a woman who escapes a factory.


Jake Russell is a painter and video maker based in Glasgow. You can find them on YouTube as Sofa Mug and on Instagram at @sofa_mug.