Joseph O'Rourke

14th Nov 2019

Hi Joe, thanks so much for participating - we hope you’re enjoying the coffee!

The coffee was great thanks, I had it at breakfast with eggs. My girlfriend Naomi and I both got pretty buzzed off it because I accidentally put too much in the cafetiere.

2. Can you talk us through your research and working processes? What are you working on at the moment?

I graduated in 2017 from ECA, and have since been living and working in Manchester. My practice is predominantly painting, but I’m starting to try to paint in a way that pushes the possibilities of painting, whether through its materiality (both what it is painted with and on), or the way it is displayed. Currently I am doing a few things, such as using industrial paints (like black iron gate, grey drainpipe, red step/tile) as well as making paint out of dust from bricks, with an aim that my work will better reflect the time and place it is made. This new material research is leading my painting towards more sculptural paintings, such as ‘RESTRAINT’, a recent painting done with floorboards and wire. It’s hard to say what I’m aiming at by making work. I think a lot of my work recently reflects the constant questions of ‘what to say’, ‘how to say’, ‘why should I say anything’. I think I’m always dissatisfied by painting because I alwayss want more than I can offer. Obviously, that leads to always making more, hoping for something more.

3. Do you have a studio? If so, how important is it to your practice to be embedded in studio life?

My studio is the only place I paint. Outside the studio I take notes of drawings, poems, ideas. The studio is my place to be, but it’s also a frustrating place to be because it’s full of paintings that I think aren’t good enough! It is kept messy and overloaded with materials, all kinds of paint. My studio reflects my non-precious approach to painting – I can’t be arsed with easels, or varnishes & a day spent stretching canvas and priming surfaces is a day wasted not painting.

4. How do you experience the art scene in Manchester; what do you feel is working well and where do you think there’s room for improvement?

Compared to Edinburgh there seems to be a lot more students who are exhibiting work. There are lots of artist-run studios and galleries, such as Bankley (where I am based), PS Mirabel, OA studios, Depot, with plenty of spaces recently opening such as the Old Bank and Stock Gallery. There’s plenty of openings all the time in spaces like this. I suppose the room for improvement might be in the bigger galleries/institutions incorporating a programme of emerging artists to display interspersed with the established artist’s exhibitions.

6. While we’re on the subject of collaboration... can you tell us about your upcoming project Painters Posting Paintings?!

The idea for PPP came about after I had been collaborating by post with my friends Jake Russell & Alex Weir, both also 2017 ECA painting graduates, I had the idea that this could expand, and it did, now including 18 artists from around the UK. Over 200 works on paper, all A4, will have been collaborated on by 2-4 artists. There were exhibitions of the collection at Edinburgh College of Art in late September and CASS Art Manchester in early-mid October. The artists are – me, Jake Russell, Alex Weir, John Brown, Jamie Dyson, Jacqui Hallum, Billy Crosby, David Lock, Emma Fineman, Laura Davies, Francisco Rodrigues, Milly Stephens, Georgia Sowerby, Mical Ruz, Gareth Kemp, Olivia Norris, Jesse Rivers and Ned Armstrong. Some of them went to ECA, others I met at the 2018 John Moores Prize and others came recommended by someone else already taking part. There were no rules to the collaborations, simply do what you want when you receive the work. IT has resulted in a very rich collection of contemporary painting, with glimpses of current approaches to processes and motifs.

After successful shows in September/ October at Edinburgh College of Art and CASS Art Manchester, the exhibition will be coming to London at Brockley Gardens gallery on 6th December, more info can be found on instagram

7. Can you talk to us about your poetry and how you position this work alongside your painting practice?

I started writing poems at time when I was working so much in a café that I couldn’t get to the studo so I’d write 2-3 line poems on the back of till receipts or coffee cards. Those developed into longer poems. Many of them started as being about things I would see or over here at work, in the corporate district of Manchester city…


Some poems became incorporated into my paintings, both literally the words and also the imagery. Stuff from songs, books, things I overhear often were already the starting point of my paintings, so using words came naturally.

9. We thought it was quite refreshing that on your website you refer to instagram as your ‘visual diary’, do you think that it’s beneficial to record your making in this way?

I think it’s better to show studio shots & WIP on Instagram so people get more out of viewing it & something different to what you can find on my website. In this way it becomes a bit of a visual diary of process. Many of the artists on PPP I’ve connected to through Instagram so it can be useful for potential networking/collaborating. It’s good to see what everyone else is painting, and it’s a good way to find opportunities.

8. Are there any books or authors that you find yourself coming back to time and time again, if so who are they, what are they and why?

Over the years there have been a few books that have influenced my painting, whether it is an idea, an image, or a tone/atmosphere/feeling. I’m always very envious of a books abiity to completely absorb you into another world. Books that have provided me with this kind of inspiration include the Master of the Margorita, Slaughterhouse S, UBIK, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat & many more.

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

I’d like to complete the animation I started making the other month, and develop my writing into longer forms. Unlimited funding is all about the time it would give me, sustained and focused time on my own in my studio picking away at whatever I’m trying to say. Sorry if the answers are quite boring! I’ve included a few drawings to make up for it!

Joe xx


Joseph O'Rourke is an artist based in Manchester making paintings, drawings and poems. You can find more of his work on instagram @joeor_.