By Daniel Milroy Maher
Prior to branching into painting during his second year of college, artist Alex Jackson considered himself an illustrator with aspirations of becoming a painter: “I’d always been in awe of painting and it was always the end goal for me,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I had this obsession with the technical aspects of how paint works and all the variations you can achieve when making a painting.” Going on to complete a BFA and MFA in the subject, it is now Alex’s primary devotion.
His recent work is inspired by a range of geographies, histories and contexts that, through their diversity, encourage Alex to “disrupt what I think I know and unlearn normative ideas about what is important/valuable and what is not.” His paintings are visual languages that allow him to think through spatial concerns which relate to “the historical production of space/environment” and also address “how we can shift and change the way we think about the spaces around us.” Explaining this in further detail, Alex notes that environment and architecture are receptive things that contain memories: “They are not just material vessels, they too hold information.”
Though he attempts to challenge attitudes and mindsets in his work, Alex believes using art as a tool for social change can be a double edged sword. “On the one hand I’d say it is powerful as it allows us to discover new ideas and think through hard problems and raise awareness,” he says. “On the other hand, I’d say it’s not useful at all because it is entangled with every other major market in the world, where people who make decisions that are destructive to certain communities are also art collectors and museum board members… It’s a million dollar industry and I doubt those who hold stock in it are willing to bet their chances on their investments.”
Alex finds that the issues stretch to a personal level too. As a black artist he notices how people project onto the work he creates: “I find it really frustrating when people don’t actually look at what is in front of them and bring things into the room that were never there in the first place,” he tells us. “I think the capacity for people to imagine things outside of what they think they know is much smaller when it comes to black art.”
Despite this, Alex is eager to carry on developing and improving his practice, branching into other mediums and staying engaged. “I just want to keep growing and keep learning, that is always the goal… everything else is secondary.”