Jamie McCartney is an English artist, trained at Hartford Art School, USA, from where he graduated with highest honours in 1991. Jamie is an artist who is hard to define. He admits to having had a largely sculptural oevre but his work crosses many disciplines and he shuns any particular label. “I blame my degree in Experimental Studio Art… I’m still experimenting”.
The Great Wall of Vagina
This is true. The Great Wall of Vagina proves it, as does his latest body of work, Physical Photography. These are themed life-sized body portriats taken without a camera. If there is a McCartney signature it is his completely fresh approach to making art. No subject is taboo, no process or material is off limits. He embraces experiment as the driving force behind his creativity, often putting himself in extremis to fulfill his self-imposed briefs. When questioned, “I just make stuff” is his mantra. This mock humility belies a strong, some would say eccentric, character with a definite je ne sais quoi… He’s a maverick, an enfant terrible and what he makes is causing quite a stir.
McCartney began his career running his own forge, making abstract animal sculptures in steel. He subsequently moved into prop/model making, sculpting and special effects in the film industry. Jamie worked on films such as Blackhawk Down, Charlotte Gray, Around the World in 80 Days and Casino Royale.
The influence of his work in the film industry are clearly seen in his sculpture practice. Materials and techniques which he adopted are put to good use in his assemblage-style work, combining for instance animal hides, taxidermy, human teeth with sculpted and cast body parts. His interest in the human body has led to some compelling works such as Actaeon, a man’s torso cast in deer hide and The Impossibility of Passion, the beginnings of his move into what he calls Neo-Surrealism. These works dynamically investigate both the beauty and the beast within us and have an almost hypnotic quality.
Having worked on grass roots environmental campaigns as well as on a peace boat in his youth, a strong socio-political current runs through many of his works. American Pie (a tryptich of films about the American diet) was way ahead of its time. Lucky Strike (comprising cigarettes and mousetraps) commented on tobacco addiction and Car-bon Miles (a road car converted to be pedal-powered) highlights alternative means of transport. Of course The Great Wall of Vagina is perhaps his magnum opus in this genre. This work attracted interest from around the world during its five years in the making and has propelled him onto the World’s stage. It has led to his description as “a revolutionary with a bucket of plaster”.
Other works have been huge personal challenges and include After (a cast taken from his dead father). By contrast he often injects much humour into his works, demonstrated in the Sexidermy series, which involves taxidermied animals reworked with sexual overtones. Armadildo and Pussy Cat have earned him as many detractors as enthusiasts. There is also his whimsical Objet d’Aft series of which Shuttlecocks is a typical example. He is also in demand to create one-off pieces for business and private clients, bringing his own unique twist to their briefs.
McCartney’s frequent appearances to discuss his art in the press and on TV have also done much to boost his profile at home and abroad. Standing on the brink of international success, he appears unaffected by all the attention. Working still from his studio in Brighton, England, he occasionally welcomes visits from the public, keen to glimpse what he is up to next. If you are lucky enought to visit on such a day then relish it. Art of England recently said of Jamie, “The world will be talking about Jamie McCartney for a long time to come.”