Jaybo Monk & His Trojan Horses

I discovered Jaybo Monk at the opening night of “Ephemeral,” a group exhibition of fourteen international artists brought together by Circle Culture Gallery. Despite having been surrounded by works from other recognizable names like Shepard Fairey, Kevin Earl Taylor, Pho, and XOOOOX (to name a few), my interest peaked when I encountered Jaybo’s painting “Memory is the first thing to go.”

Always on the lookout for artist-poets, I felt that I had found one. And when I later discovered more of his paintings with titles like “Everybody is a moon,” or “I am a Monday” and “Three lifes and thunder,” I just had to catch up with him. My excuse to approach him was the “Ephemeral” exhibition, but what I really wanted to do was get a glimpse at the poetry concealed within him. Of course I could not tell him my real intentions as I might have received sugar-coated answers. So without ever mentioning the word “poetry,” I approached him. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s my interview with Jaybo Monk:

On Ephemerality

BAPs: What’s the thing that lasts the shortest? The longest?

JM: The shortest would be our life, and the longest our fear to accept it.

BAPs: For how long have you been creating art and how did you start?

JM: I am a late starter, and I’m still considering myself not an artist but a craftsman. I had my first exhibition in 2005. It just started as I was helping Nadine from Circle Culture Gallery to fill a hole in the calendar by doing some papercuts and an installation. After that, Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer (co-owner of CCG) succeeded in letting me believe in what I do. I then slowly stopped other activities and concentrated on getting better at what I paint, sculpt, or install everyday until today.

BAPs: Do you have any nicknames?

JM: I got billions. Names are like colors: you recognize them when they change.

jaybo-monk-10Some of the colors of Jaybo Monk we found in his studio. Photo: Chris Phillips 

BAPs: Describe your studio practice– what’s your method?

JM: I provoke accidents. I experiment on the go and react about the layers done. A kind of a simple binary system of choices. I am in a perpetual mode of investigating new confrontations based on contrast in any form, color-wise or again style-wise. I am playing.

BAPs: If I asked you to draw something on the surface of water, what would you draw?

JM: I can’t answer that – I never know what I paint or draw in advance. 

jaybo-monk-2Jaybo contemplative, fleeting, smiling; not knowing what he’ll paint in advance. Photo: C. Phillips

BAPs: How long does it take you to complete one of your works, on average?

JM: There are no rules, I consider all of my paintings unfinished. It seems to me that they are all connected into a one bigger picture. Time does not exist.

BAPs: If your paintings were not paintings, what would they be? Windows, mirrors, hammers, love letters, etc.

JM: My painting are not paintings. My paintings are trojan horses.