Jamie Hawkesworth shares some special images from Kenya as part of his latest London exhibition

Ambling across continents, mediums and subjects, Jamie Hawkesworth’s new London show is an ode to believing in the moment. Through 59 drawings, seven photographs and one film, A Blue Painted Fence sees the acclaimed British artist reflect upon allowing a delicate mix of fate and gut instinct to guide his eye. As he tells Nataal: “For most of my projects I just go somewhere and see what I come across. I find that I build up a nice rhythm when I’m open to chance. There’s no grand idea, I’m simply exploring and gaining a momentum throughout the day and then one photo leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another… This show is exploring that movement and flow that can bring unrelated work together.” So essentially your method is winging it? “Yes! That’s it. I’m articulating winging it. The elegant spirit of winging it cuts through a lot of guff.”

In just a few years, Hawkesworth has inspired a new generation of image-makers with his rich and gentle photography. Whether shooting documentary, portraiture or fashion, creating still or moving images, his disarmingly simple approach exudes an appreciation for the warmth and beauty to be found everywhere. The artist first gained attention in 2011 for Preston Bus Station, his series of candid portraits of people from all walks of life passing through this English transport hub. Since then his career has seen him shoot for titles including AnOther, LOVE, Vogue, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and with brands such as JW Anderson and Miu Miu. He also enjoyed a solo show at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn in 2016 followed by last year’s early career retrospective at Amsterdam’s Huis Marseille entitled Landscape With Tree (taken from a significant image he took in the Congo).

Assignments and personal trips have taken him to every corner of the globe from Antarctica to Lagos to Jerusalem to Rio to Moscow and beyond. This troubadouring is evident in the new show, which features images from Louisiana and Mombasa, the latter of which becoming the focus of the film. “I travelled 10,000km across Kenya with Save The Elephants to visit all of these different places but I ended up loving what I found in between,” he recalls. “One day I saw some school girls crossing the road and naturally responded to how abstract and lovely they looked, so I asked the head teacher if I could film the pupils in the school’s playground.”

At the show, you enter a circular room and are compelled to walk in circles to watch these young uniformed muses laughing and posing in the bright sunshine. Hawkeworth has plans to transport the room to Mombasa in January so that the children can experience the work for themselves, and so that he can potentially extend the project further, too.

“For most of my projects I just go somewhere and see what I come across. I find that I build up a nice rhythm when I’m open to chance”

What marks any photographer out as exceptional is their ability to identify and capture these magic moments with authenticity and an understanding of the responsibility that comes with the act of immortalising them. While Hawkeswoth doesn’t want to over think his methods, it’s clear that his instincts steer him in the right direction. “It’s funny. I have a really bad back but when I find something I really love, the pain goes away. Everything becomes light and I get this energy that keeps me going. That’s what I’m trying to encourage from this show – the joy of discovery is the message.”

His chalk on paper drawings are a newer extension of his craft. “When I’ve been out and about and then come back to London, I have this built up energy and drawing comes quite naturally to me as a way to play around with what I’ve been thinking about on the trip. It’s incredibly naive and sporadic.” For the show, he’s responded to a photograph he took in a town in Louisiana where the local sugar factory sends out huge sugary mists. “The motion of this cloud moving through the town was crazy, so for the drawings I imagined what it must have looked like from inside the houses the cloud was passing rather than from my perspective outside. I drew them all in 10 minutes.”

Hawkesworth has also begun experimented with sculpture and writing in recent times, and it was his notebook, rather than a photograph, that inspired the title of the exhibition. “Over the summer I travelled from LA to Alaska by myself for two months and I found myself writing a bit about photography and some of the things I’ve experienced. One day I came across a blue house with a blue door against a blue sky but the fence was white. I wrote that if that was my house, I’d paint the fence blue, so then it became something I wished it was. It’s great to play, after all.”

A Blue Painted Fence is on view at 1-7 Aylesbury Street London, EC1R 0DR

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Published on 03/12/2018