I moved to Philadelphia four years ago, and Jacob Lunderby, my new studio neighbor, was one of the first artists I met in the city. His practice fluidly combines photography, digital manipulation, and painting in complexly layered, transparent works, seen most recently in Philadelphia at Pentimenti Gallery. I spoke to Jacob earlier this year in his studio, and our conversation continued a few months later.
JF: Can you describe the working process in your most recent work, going back and forth between digital and tactile formats?
JL: The process generally involves printing digital images on a translucent material and then painting on the back of that printed image, or on a wood panel, before mounting the image to the panel. The translucent quality of the printed image allows for the paint on the panel to perceptually fuse layers of image and optical pattern.
The digital image is manipulated to a limited degree in the case of the window paintings, whereas the bubble wrap paintings are primarily constructed in Photoshop. The tactile element is arrived at structurally in response to each image and is used as a device to disrupt the image, as well as direct attention.
JF: There’s a connection between the textures of your work and urban, dilapidated surfaces. How did those surfaces come to be focal content in your work? Are they architecture, or something else?
JL: The window images entered my work around 2011. On my walk to the studio one day, I noticed a broken window that had been covered with black & yellow caution tape. The strips of tape were attached to the broken glass in a sort of improvisatory “X” form with a horizontal line through the middle. What interested me in this image was the gesture of temporarily arresting the break in the window with tape while making plausible the fact that at one point the window might be fixed.
JF: Is that interesting to you solely as a formal gesture, or is there a connection to the built environment that you want to make with images like the broken, taped window?
JL: Initially the formal gesture is what interested me; the implication of that gesture, in conjunction with the visible properties of the glass (transparency/surface tension/reflectiveness), is what led to the images becoming incorporated into paintings. Maybe there is a link to the built environment, although I would not say that my intent is to connect the paintings to any particular neighborhood.
What role does dense pattern, reminiscent of Op art, play in your work? Is there a meaningful connection between the representational elements in each piece and the pattern?
JL: The pattern responds specifically to formal properties of each individual image; pattern is used to generate a visual rhythmic intensity within the work while destabilizing the uniformity of the image.
JF: Can you describe how that plays out in a particular recent piece?
Untitled (JL201320), 2013
JL: The thin horizontal stripes in this painting are made using a hand-cut stencil. While the thickness of each stripe is roughly equivalent to the space between stripes, there is a small variance in the consistency of the painting that produces a slight rupture in the pattern. The rhythm established by the optical intensity of the pattern creates a minor visual disturbance, similar to the vibration of a moiré pattern. The pattern has a tendency to optically mix with the image when viewed from a distance but appears more distinct in closer proximity.
(detail) Untitled (JL201320), 2013
I use the pattern here to isolate formal elements of the image; the stencil was cut and painted so that the grid of blue painter’s tape would appear divided into an artificial foreground and middle ground, while the space recedes into background.
JF: You seem to spend more time in the studio than many artists I know. What keeps you engaged there?
JL: I try to maintain a fairly regular studio routine because my work takes a while to develop. The actual production of work can happen at different speeds, but working into an idea or investigating possible tangents keeps me engaged in the studio. I used to work long hours in the studio because my process was labor-intensive. When I changed my process a few years ago, my work became less labor intensive and freed me mentally from feeling the need to limit a body of work to a singular exhibition.
JF: How long have you been in Philadelphia? What are the good and bad of being an artist here?
JL: I moved to Philadelphia in January 2006. Some of the good aspects of being an artist in Philadelphia are a reasonable cost of living, a tight knit art community, and proximity to other cities along the east coast..
Like most cities, Philly has limited financial resources for artists, especially given the volume of artists working here. There are generous fellowships available for well-established artists, but there is a funding gap for artists earlier in their careers. In Minneapolis, where I am originally from, there are different levels of grants and opportunities available to artists throughout different points in their career. The funding available to artists in Minneapolis seems to be an anomaly compared with other cities though.
JF: Your background is in painting, but these works are as photographic as they are painterly. How do you see your work in the historical context of painting, and how did the transition happen towards photography and digital media? Are you still a painter?
JL: Contextually, my work follows a line from mid-to-late twentieth century painters such as Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Christopher Wool and Simulation/Simulacra-influenced art of the late 1970s and early eighties.
Digital media has been a part of my process since I was a graduate student in the early 2000s, but the transition to my use of photography and digital media in my current work started around 2007. At that time I was using photography to appropriate images from films as they played on my laptop; I would manipulate the images that I shot from the screen using digital software, then use the printed image as a reference to make an oil painting on panel. Around 2010, I started experimenting with printing on translucent material and layering the printed image over a painting on panel. Shortly after these experiments, I decided that the process of painting from the photograph was no longer vital to the production of my work, though I continued using enamel to paint as part of my process. My current work grew out of this hybrid process after I stopped using appropriated images and began generating my own images. Despite the hybridity of the process I use, the way I frame the work conceptually, historically and linguistically comes more from a painting position than photography. As a result, I still think of myself as a painter.