In conversation with – Jo Howe

Jo working

How would you describe your creative practice?

My creative practice is as essential to me as breathing. It feels very much part of what makes me function. I see it as the way to express myself, some times to others, but primarily to myself. Gaining further understanding of my life’s experiences; the trials and tribulations as well as the joys and achievements.

I work predominantly with old books and book pages.  The book or page becomes a tool for looking inwards to our evolving personal narratives rather than the read contents of the book as text. I consciously work with the text to render it difficult to read, if not at times almost absent. The fragmentation, removal and disruption of text transforms words into visual clues. By resisting meaning in purely linguistic terms the reader is invited to respond at an intuitive and emotional level. In physically exploring text, removal of text, the page, book and restructured cover I seek to construct alternative narratives, which in turn generate new meaning.

But most of all, I just love words.

Everything I ever wanted to say (detail) – Jo Howe

What is the most asked question about your work?

Don’t you feel guilty destroying books? Yep, been asked that one a few times. Books bring up a lot of emotion. Books can represent so much to us, and be poignant reminders to events and emotions. It doesn’t surprise me that this question continues to arise. The preciousness of books is, of course, acknowledged but the irony of an attachment to a mass produced object is not lost on me.

My answer is always that I don’t believe I am destroying books but re-purposing so that it can be received in a new way, giving it new life. I do of course stress that I do not ‘re-purpose’ 1st editions (even though I find that an interesting thought in terms of the perceived value of ‘destruction’ that would alter how the work may be viewed) and that the books I work on would generally just sit on shelves, unread and awaiting their final burning destination (alas too many books are burnt rather than find their way to new homes).

Historia das Americas – Guy Laramee

Who or What inspires you?

I am inspired by so many things and so many people it is, rather delightfully, a never ending list. In terms of artists, to list a few such as Tom Phillips, Guy Laramee, Jenny Saville, Tim Noble / Sue Webster,  and Pablo Lehmann.

I adore watching the sunrise and sunset. I worked early in the morning for many years (yet another job to keep the financial wolves from the door) and had the gift of driving through dawn most mornings, a sublime and diverse experience. A reminder of our minuscule scale in this amazing universe.

Tools of the trade

What are the benefits of being part of The Gallimaufry Collective?

The benefits are huge. Being able to get excited about things that others don’t necessarily feel and understood. Discussing difficulties, stumbling blocks and drought periods with the knowledge of being heard and questioned. The regular meetings and appreciating the gift of support, belonging and feeling really comfortable about being one of ‘those crazy artists’.

Written by

Jo Howe

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