Joe Simpson is a figurative painter who hails from London. Working with oil paint to create hyperrealist images, his work is akin to vivid cinematography. Joe’s paintings depict deliberately staged scenes in which the images of his imagination are suspended on canvas. These ‘frozen moments’ are intentionally ambiguous and invite the viewer to project their own contextual narrative onto the work.
Joe graduated from a degree in Fine Art at Leeds University six years ago and has since continued to work on a variety of creative projects. From stunning portraits of the likes of Brandon Flowers of the Killers and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend to shining stills of New York City, his work is a testament to the beauty of modern fine art in practice. He explains that he tends to take on projects that will take about a year to complete. ‘I like the idea that each project takes me on some sort of journey’ he says, ‘and there’s an overall theme and concept that connects each painting.’
His paintings have been shown both nationally and internationally at a variety of well-known venues and institutions such as The National Portrait Gallery, The Royal Albert Hall and Manchester City Art Gallery. Additionally, the eyes of his subjects have met those of the bigwigs filing in and out of The House of Commons. Joe has been open and creative in his approach to sharing his work with the public and gaining new clients, he says, ‘I’ve tried to support my work with different routes, from crowdfunding, arts council funding, making pop-up galleries and more traditional routes such as commercial galleries and competitions.’
Having completed several large scale commissions for prestigious clients, including a series of paintings for P&O, Standard Chartered and the Professional Football Association, Joe’s work is now owned by notable collectors and celebrities. His largest exhibition, Almost There, a collaborative effort between he and a collection of musicians, received funding and sponsorship from Arts Council England and Audio Technica. The show explored specific soundtracks, road trips, filmic stills, the concept of personal journeys and the ‘road-move’ genre. He tells us:
‘The road trip idea is ingrained in culture, after Kerouac, ‘Born to Run’, and a thousand road movies – certain expectations and clichés are always going to be there. There’s an expectation for somebody on a road trip to have an epiphany, or realization, or of ‘arriving’ in some way. It’s impossible to not be aware of this, the character in ‘Almost There’ is really trying to be that Kerouac character he is waiting to for the moment when everything makes sense.’
Next year, Joe will be embarking on a new project entitled, Act. Having already brushed shoulders with the glitterati, he has decided to make celebrities the main focus of his work. In this project he will be approaching his favourite actors, asking them to sit for a new series of paintings. These works however, will not be traditional portraits, but compositions that place them as characters in fictional scenes. ‘The project will be very collaborative, with each actor asked, ‘what role have you always wanted to play but have never got the chance?” Joe says. ‘His intention is to then create a narrative painting in response to their answers. These roles maybe from scripts that were never made, or characters from novels or plays that they would love to play, or any other interpretations of the questions asked.’
Joe will work with the actors to create fresh narratives, focussing on how best to depict the characters and what kind of setting and scene would best depict the chosen part. This project is surely every artist’s dream, the possibilities are limitless and YGT can’t wait to see the results.
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth