Interview by Joanna Pierce, based in Hong Kong
Jennifer Kidd is trying to get a car into an art gallery. In between this and planting 4000 individual hairs onto silicone model heads in preparation for an exhibition at the Hamni Gallery in London. She was happy to give an interview, and we agreed to a time for the very next day.
Her voice bubbles with enthusiasm and it quickly becomes clear that she is not an artist who retreats to create or sees the turbulence of her chosen career as a challenge. Instead, what is striking is the contrast between her own ease and the disruption and discomfort her work highlights.
Jennifer is a born artist from Kildare, Ireland, now living in London. Her chosen media are stop motion animation and video installation; media that she feels are more comfortable for people and more accessible. She admits that her main audience is people in the arts. But while her focus is not commercial, ultimately it is for everyone, “whether they like it or not is another thing!”
Art Zeen: Jenny, stop motion has become very popular in recent years with mainstream films like Fantastic Mr Fox and Corpse Bride, how did you get into this particular medium?
Jennifer Kidd: It was actually a last-minute redirection in my work. I was pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at the Dublin Institute of Technology and focusing in particular on oil painting. Two months before my finals I switched to animation; my lecturers did not like the change! But what I wanted to say needed a storyline. It needed more than a series of paintings and I felt that the ability to tell the story in one fluid movement, in animation, was more in keeping with the concept. It is easier to change the concept than the medium, and many artists do this, many fit the meaning to the work that they can create. But for me the concept was more important.
Art Zeen: So you moved into animation, but why did you choose stop motion in particular?
Jennifer Kidd: Stop motion is quite an old form, it’s been around for a while and because of that it’s easy to access. Digital art can be so modern that it scares people; in a similar way to performance art, the medium can become distracting and take over. Stop motion is a simpler form; people can see the flaws, identify with it and accept the message.
Art Zeen: But in your next exhibition you’re moving into installation?
Jennifer Kidd: Again, for me the concept is more important than the medium. I have the animation of the woman standing still with nothing but her hair moving, and I’m trying to fill this picture. For the next exhibit I’m hoping to get a car into the gallery, which will be difficult! I want a busted car, to show derailment. This is about crashes; the personal crashes which can bring you to a standstill. I’m lucky enough to have always known what I wanted to do, but many people have a moment where they are struck by doubt: Is this what I want to do? Am I going the right direction? For other people it can be family problems or relationship problems that lead to these car-crash moments.
Art Zeen: How do you intend to display this message?
Jennifer Kidd: I’m hoping to show this car so that you can view it as a car someone is about to get in to, or a car someone is about to get out of. Others can regard it less personally, as a piece of artwork, something behind a glass, something to stare at rather than reflecting on ourselves. I’m fascinated by the levels of discomfort we possess: we’re inherently uncomfortable with being on the tube and having someone stare at us, yet we upload photos and information to Facebook to share with people who are ostensibly ‘friends’. And we in turn stare at these photos. We’re good at self PR but we still don’t like being watched.
Art Zeen: You expend a lot of effort in finding the correct medium to communicate your concept, do you think you have one overarching message?
Jennifer Kidd: I think other people might recognize that more than I. To me, all my pieces are very different, different creations. I do focus on the subconscious, on moments of reflection. I’m interested in the moments you don’t share, that you don’t think are important or consider in conversation, when you just stare out.
Art Zeen: You mentioned that you were lucky enough never to have had a personal car-crash moment in terms of your career; have you never considered being anything other than an artist?
Jennifer Kidd: No I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist, since primary school definitely. There are times when art as a business is difficult, but then again every industry has its challenges. I moved to London five years ago and had to start from scratch. I had contacts in Ireland, but felt the need to push myself further in London. Living here can be tough, but ultimately rewarding after the work you put in pays off and you start getting exhibitions. I sit back and accept my work for what it is, for being itself, and that is my success.
Everywhere and No One by Jennifer Kidd