How artist Jazz Grant explores the nuances of race and identity through collage.
By Naomi Barling.
Brighton-born London/Margate-based artist Jazz Grant uses mixed media and collage to create works that explore race, identity, and the zeitgeist. Her pieces have significantly impacted both the fashion and art worlds, leading her to collaborate with brands including Burberry, Gucci, and Dazed and stand-alone exhibitions of her work. Mission spoke to Grant about why she entered the creative space, her artistic process, and what shaped her approach to race and identity in her work.
Naomi Barling: How did you end up using collage as your medium? What about it resonates with you?
Jazz Grant: After being introduced to collage as a design process in fashion, I found myself gravitating to it all the time. Eventually, I was making collages that had no immediate connection to fashion; they took on their own meaning. It’s a tangible process, and I like to work with my hands. For me, it’s about experimenting with form and distorting perspective.
NB: Your work deals with race and identity. Has your personal experience shaped how you approach this topic?
JG: Having a Black father and a white mother, I was surrounded (or suffocated) by white culture growing up. All I wanted was more representation in all of my interests — fashion, film, art. So when I started making my own work, it wasn’t really a conscious decision, more of a natural inclination.
NB: Who have been some of your biggest influences, and why?
JG: I think experiencing exhibitions as a young person had an enormous effect on me. One show that always surfaces is Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward Gallery in 2011. I was blown away by sensory emotion in a way I had never experienced before. I’d love to create a show one day that has a similar effect on people.
Also, my mum and her friends used to swap art. So we always had interesting things up on our walls, and they tended to be in the world of abstract photography, mixed media, collage and were generally surreal. That must have influenced me.
NB: How does your starting point vary for each project?
JG: It depends on the purpose and intention of the work. My personal starting point is always changing, but it tends to start with digging through old books and magazines to pull out images that feel relevant. Currently, I’m fascinated by sports crowds. But previously, I’ve dug into crowds gathered to protest.
NB: Your work has been so well received, and you’ve worked with some huge brands; how do you navigate this success while making sure you keep creating authentic work?
JG: Thanks! I feel fortunate, but it hasn’t distracted me from my process. I work in the way I’ve always worked. Also, being freelance keeps you on your toes; you never feel fully secure. So, I just take it in my stride. I’ve seen artists get all the hype in the world, and it doesn’t always last. I’m quite practical about that, so I’ll just focus on making work that I love.
NB: What message would you like people to take away from your work?
JG: Hopefully, it strikes a chord in some way. If I’ve put it out into the world, it has caused some kind of stir in me, and maybe I can share that feeling with others.
NB: What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been learning about painting and more mixed media processes. I love learning new skills regardless of whether they’ll make the cut. I want to go bigger and more tactile.