We first became aware of Joey Collins – aka Six of the Six – when we visited Print UnLtd exhibition at Salford Art Gallery (link at the bottom). His work evokes so many ideas, memories, and it played about with the idea of the artist as a founder and an editor of what is already around us. That exhibition finishes 14th October, so get yourselves over to Salford now.
In this interview we asked Joey more about the exhibition, and find out more about his interests outside of art, which include being a dog owner and a chocolatier!
Cotton On MCR: So how is the exhibition going at Salford Art Gallery?
Joey Collins: ‘Great! We’ve had a good visitor turn out so far. It’s a really good gallery space and for me was a great opportunity to make bigger work which I’d really wanted to do for a long time.’
‘The exhibition is a conclusion to a body of work titled “Try Me” where I collected discarded scribble pads from art supplies shops in Manchester and worked with these drawings as a starting point responding with my own collage and drawing. I made six large pieces selected from over 800 strips of paper. The strips were cut from a continuous 6 week printing marathon which essentially was one large piece of work. I was thrilled to see them in such a great space and the gallery itself really enhanced the scale of my work.’
CO: The exhibition description says; ‘Challenging and questioning perceived constricts and rules around printmaking.’ How do you think your work achieves that?
JC: ‘Well I’ve never been one for constricts or rules and I’m quite new to screen printing so I’ve never made any limited edition prints. I’ve worked with multiples before but each one with their own personality which is, in essence, a variable edition. I set out to create prints that appeared almost like paintings and I wanted the final work to be one-off originals. I made around ninety 100mm x 160mm screen prints that were all slightly different. I printed with the same images over and over where I adjusted the scale, position and colour, creating 90 variable edition prints. Each one very different but with obvious similarities. I then cut the work up and reconstructed them back into new compositions.’
‘I’m proud of the “Try Me” work. It’s been a lot of hard work and I’m not that experienced in screen printing so it was a big achievement. I’ve learnt loads and I am excited now to take some new skills and ideas into a new body of work.’
CO: What new work do you have coming up?
JC: ‘Hot Bed Press hosts the 20:20 Print Exchange next month so I’m busy drawing again. Each artist involved is asked to produce a new edition of 25 prints on 20cm x 20cm paper. In return each artist receives a box set of 20 randomly selected prints which includes their own print and 19 others. The whole of H.B.P is turned into a huge print ‘sorting factory’ for a few weeks with thousands of prints from all over the world.It’s also our open studio’s in November which is always a good excuse to have a good sort out and start some new work.’
CO: We see a restricted colour palette in your pieces, adding one or maybe two colours at most. Can you tell us more about that?
JC: ‘A monochromatic palette has always been a constant in my work. It’s not really a conscious decision but a natural aesthetic that I’m attracted to. I like the simplicity of a restricted colour palette and that’s one of the things that attracted me originally to the drawings in the art shops. The colours in the work in the gallery are inspired from the original scribbles.’
CO: You recently had a couple of months away from the studio, can I ask why?
JC: ‘Just to recharge really after the Salford show and to settle our two new dogs into their new home. They are Romanian rescues and were born feral. The dog pounds over there are hell on earth for them so it can be quite challenging at the beginning.’
CO: Side note – I honestly really admire that! As a huge dog fan myself, I know there aren’t many people out there that would welcome feral dogs into their home.
CO: What do you think of Manchester’s art scene?
JC: ‘If I’m honest I’ve been out of the art scene for a long time. It seems really vibrant and exciting but I feel like I don’t really know it that well. Although thanks to social media, all the great independent spaces and all the new art fairs, there is so much opportunity for artists to sell work and make contacts. It’s so easy to keep up to date with what’s going on without even leaving the studio!’
CO: How has your work developed over the years?
JC: ‘I’ve always been interested in the creative process and I started designing and making clothes from the age of 16 for myself and my friends. This led to an interest in construction and seeing what I could do with materials. Gaining a place on the foundation course at University of Salford, a whole new world opened up to me. I remember being so excited at all the possibilities. I worked with textiles and a lot of photography and was fascinated by the urban landscape, people that inhabited the city and it’s personality. From there I started working with sculpture on the Visual Arts degree at University of Salford where I graduated in 1997.’
‘I always want to explore new things and any new technology soon became a new medium to explore. The internet was then still relatively young and experimental so I taught myself how to design websites which were usually for artists or creative businesses. This naturally led me into graphic design which still influences my art work today. A few years ago I designed the interior for a fashion design house in Chorlton called Trouble at Mill where I hand printed wallpaper and this got me interested in the process of print.’
CO: How would you describe your work now?
JC: ‘I’m excited by exploring process and materials and have a studio at Hot Bed Press printmaking workshop in Salford where I’ve been learning how to screen print. My current work combines drawing, collage and screen printing. I tend to work on a series of images, then de-construct them into individual strips, then re-construct them. I then connect each new component to the next to create either a graphic landscape where sometimes a character will appear. I don’t like to have too much of a plan and tend to work directly from drawing and photography, sometimes via Photoshop.’
CO: How did you find studying Visual Arts at University of Salford?
JC: ‘I loved it! I had the time of my life. My foundation course was in a building called Speedy Studios just off Fredrick Road in Salford. It was a big warehouse space which as an art student was a perfect playground. It was our own mini Saatchi Gallery (Boundary Road site).’
CO: You’re also a chocolatier. Can you tell us more about that?
JC: ‘I have always had a passion for food and cooking and after working on a computer screen for many years I craved something more hands on so I taught myself how to make chocolates. I worked on the food markets for a while and was the chocolatier in Bon Bon in the Northern Quarter which was very exciting. Working with chocolate is a very creative process and I also hand-made all the packaging too.’
CO: If you could live in any painting or artwork, what would it be and why?
JC: ‘Field for the British Isles by Antony Gormley. One of the most powerful art works I’ve ever seen with so much human commitment! All those little characters looking up at you. I’d like to talk to every single one of them and ask them what they are looking at?’
You can see more of Joey Collins Six of the Six on his Instagram account and check out our review of Print UnLtd now. The exhibition ends 14th October. Also, keep an eye on our What’s On Pages for the Hot Bed Press open studios event.