In conversation with… Jo Howe

How would you describe your creative practice?

My creative practice is as essential to me as breathing. It feels very much part of what makes me function. I see it as the way to express myself, some times to others, but primarily to myself. Gaining further understanding of my life’s experiences; the trials and tribulations as well as the joys and achievements.

I work predominantly with old books and book pages.  The book or page becomes a tool for looking inwards to our evolving personal narratives rather than the read contents of the book as text. I consciously work with the text to render it difficult to read, if not at times almost absent. The fragmentation, removal and disruption of text transforms words into visual clues. By resisting meaning in purely linguistic terms the reader is invited to respond at an intuitive and emotional level. In physically exploring text, removal of text, the page, book and restructured cover I seek to construct alternative narratives, which in turn generate new meaning.

Doodlecuts - Day Forty Three #50DaysCreating - JoHowe

Doodlecuts – Day Forty Three #50DaysCreating – Jo Howe

What are you working on at the moment?


I have for some considerable time worked on small pieces of work that exist alongside, I guess what I have always called my main practice, to keep me fresh, engaged and allow the brain to wander and explore. I have noticed that these projects tend to be bold, colourful and quite graphic in flavour. This process I have always considered integral and indeed essential to my practice as an artist. I have, many a time, unlocked new ideas, solutions to dilemmas and rather delightfully, wonderful new directions to creatively travel whilst being otherwise engaged in this  almost automatic activity.

For quite sometime, working with mount board, hand-made papers, print, collage and the scalpel, I produce, what I have termed as ‘doodle cuts’. They inevitably (bar the odd one or two dressing my studio wall and a few that made it into a book form), end up in the dark recesses of my litter bin.

As a way of honouring this process and to bring those little gems into the light, I decided on a #50DaysCreating project everyday from September 5, 2016 and there after for 50 Days, I produce and share online one doodle cut. I have also decided to show them at Art Fair East in December alongside my regular and more familiar work. I believe showing them together could offer a more complete picture of who I am as an artist and afford a greater insight into my particular creative behaviours.

Just behind my whisper - Jo Howe

Just behind my whisper – Jo Howe

What is the most asked question about your work?

Don’t you feel guilty destroying books? Yep, been asked that one a few times. Books bring up a lot of emotion. Books can represent so much to us, and be poignant reminders to events and emotions. It doesn’t surprise me that this question continues to arise. The preciousness of books is, of course, acknowledged but the irony of an attachment to a mass produced object is not lost on me.

My answer is always that I don’t believe I am destroying books but re-purposing so that it can be received in a new way, giving it new life. I do of course stress that I do not ‘re-purpose’ 1st editions (even though I find that an interesting thought in terms of the perceived value of ‘destruction’ that would alter how the work may be viewed) and that the books I work on would generally just sit on shelves, unread and awaiting their final burning destination (alas too many books are burnt rather than find their way to new homes).

Doodlecuts - Day Thirty Four #50DaysCreating - Jo Howe

Doodlecuts – Day Thirty Four #50DaysCreating – Jo Howe

Who or What inspires you?

I am inspired by so many things and so many people it is, rather delightfully, a never ending list. In terms of artists, to list a few such as Tom Phillips, Brian Dettmer, Jenny Saville, Tim Noble / Sue Webster, Pablo Lehmann.

I am particularly enchanted with the sunrise. I work early in the morning (yet another job to keep the financial wolves fron the door) and have the gift of driving through dawn most mornings, a sublime and diverse experience. A reminder of our miniscule scale in this amazing universe.

What are the benefits and/or pitfalls of working in a group studio space?

The benefits are huge. Being able to get excited about things that others don’t necessarily feel and understood. Discussing difficulties, stumbling blocks and drought periods with the knowledge of being heard and questioned. Just the gift of support, belonging and feeling really comfortable about being one of ‘those crazy artists’.

I will have time - Jo Howe

I will have time – Jo Howe

What do you hope to gain from showing at Art Fair East?

I am really open to this experience and interested in how my work will be received. I am looking forward to showing my doodle cut work together with my more traditional practice. This is a first and it will be interesting to see how the audience engage with them. I am really looking forward to meeting visitors and having conversations around the work. This really completes the works journey for me and often gives me a new insight that I find really rewarding. Of course on a practical note, I would hope to gain a vast level of sales, gallery recognition/contacts and connect with new artists too (just putting that out there into the universe) #YouNeverKnow



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