The Monthly interviews artist Jasper McKinney about the new CAP Project, “The Way It Is”

How did you get involved with The Way it is Project?

Conor Shields, CAP’s Chief Executive, approached me and explained what the project was about and invited me to be part of it. I’m sure there would have been some criteria regarding your previous work with community but I was happy to be asked and now I am part of the project.

The project connects poets with artists?

I had worked with art and text before on a previous project, I am not a writer, however, I have worked using a combination of text and images previously. I had really good support from ACNI throughout the Covid situation because at the start of the pandemic there were difficulties with projects being cancelled or postponed. I was so glad that this project was securely funded and going ahead.

I have worked with Tracey Crossan in the past which was a very good experience, therefore it was easy to agree to work on it.

You are happy to work with a poet?

Yes. I am working with Moyra Donaldson. It has been a very interesting and challenging experience. We have met up on Zoom, discussed our ideas and how our ideas might be voiced and portrayed.

Moyra Donaldson

We developed a process where I would work on a digital image for Moyra and she would write and we would meet up again and see where we ended up regarding our expressions of the initial ideas. Sometimes we have had quite a different take on the words and images and at other times we have been in the same place. The process meant that we both have to adjust our work, and reflect on each other’s observations and feedback,  It is coming along nicely now.

Ultimately the work will go into a book and touring exhibition with a total of 9 artists and 9 poets.

You are working collaboratively?

Yes, this is a shared process. We showed each presentations of work that we had done in the past and tried to do a little research on each other’s work. Then once that had taken place we were able to slowly merge our thoughts on the pandemic and what the impact of that has been.  I have worked before on the issues of bereavement and loss and there have been echoes of ideas and themes that have come up in my previous work. Part of the process was finding common ground regarding our perceptions.

Where are you up to now?

We have the drafts of Moyra’s poems and I have two paintings finished and I am working on a third. I was hoping to have finished the paintings but there is one I am not happy with so have started the third painting again with a revised composition.

I have been using digital outlines and then I work with oils on canvas to construct the images. The process is quite time consuming because it takes at least 4 days for the various layers to dry. As each layer is added the images and ideas of the painting become clearer. It is quite time consuming yet so important to share the development with Moyra, so she gets to see how things are taking shape.

Has it all been over Zoom?

Mostly over Zoom, although Moyra came to visit my studio recently, where she could see the paintings properly – because no matter how good the digital images are they really cannot replace the experience of seeing the painting in reality.

A Hard Place – Jasper McKinney

Is the project almost completed?

Even as the project nears completion it is constantly evolving, as news is coming in all the time, like the recent fires on the Mournes coinciding with the Indian situation, the funeral pyres in India for example, or the zombie fires where the fire dies away but re-emerges from under the ground, similar to the way the viruses shift and change and re-emerge. These events have found their way into the imagery both in the visual art and the poetry.

A Hard Place, April 2020

                It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, April
                Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.        
                                                                Edna St. Vincent Millay

Soft Spring; first delicate shoots,
bright mornings and loamy evenings,
liquid stirrings of sap, birdsong
and underground
bulbs green fountaining to air, carrying
white quietude and yellow trumpeting.

April’s promise seems to mock
the primitive needs of heart, iced
into this place of spikes and brittle edges,
distance and glass between us – fear.

My ancestral hand longs for the feel of her,
the sweet blessing of her fontanelle
beneath my palm, the soft skull of her –
granddaughter – my being grieves the lack.

The three paintings and three poems mirror different stages of the pandemic and how it has impacted individuals, families and communities. It will be exciting to view and read the other pieces to be included in the book and exhibition at this strange and unique moment in history

Jasper McKinney
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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.