Joymaker is a new series spotlighting people who seek to create joy in their work.
It takes a kind of joyful madness to hand-apply 100 lbs. of raspberry jam to a gallery wall. And that’s exactly what attracted me to the work of Naomi London, a visual artist based in Montreal, who tries to bring a voice for joy and play to contemporary art. London uses joyful forms, visual metaphors, and textures (such as polka dots) to give her audience a sense of delight.
I’m fascinated by the shiny, sticky surface of this enormous red wall. While a red wall might typically take on a violent or alarming quality, the material makes it totally disarming, even childlike. I wonder if it stayed sticky throughout the installation, and slightly fluid, shifting its mottles in a slow gravitational creep towards the floor. Or whether it stayed firm, drying like a giant fruit roll-up. I didn’t ask Naomi these silly questions, but I did ask her some others:
How do you want people to feel when they engage with your work?
I’m very interested in the notion of play in art. I’m hoping that when people see the Jam Wall they can appreciate the unexpected beauty of the colour, as well as the playful absurdity of using this material.
Can you talk more about this connection between joy and absurdity?
I associate absurdity very much with play, and play is joyful. Other connections include humour in the absurd, e.g. the odd rhymes and tongue twisters of several early Dr. Seuss books. I find that there is pleasure in being in a ‘non-logical place’ in your head, which is how I think of the absurd. It’s about the unexpected, fun, and delight that can be felt when exploring things that deliberately don’t make logical sense, but are full of wonder and joy. There is an importance in the purposelessness of the absurd, which is something that makes is joyful (to me) and thus also linked to play.
What is the role of joy in your work?
I think that joy, beauty, humour and play have been underrepresented in contemporary art over the last few decades. I’ve been interested in trying to address joy and happiness in my work for past ten years or so. I’m currently working on a sculpture installation project in homage to my mother, (who died just over two years ago). Even though it is a memorial work of sorts, I hope that it still somehow evokes a sense of joy.
I’m making a series of balls which are made exclusively out of fabric inherited from my mom. (She was a talented seamstress and made almost all my clothes during my childhood.)
What one object most symbolizes joy to you?
I think I’m torn between seeing the first tulips in early Spring and my favorite large white mixing bowl that I use when I bake a cake.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Colour, and the unexpected use of saturated colour: chartreuse yellow + green, fire engine red, brilliant orange.
What other designers, artists, or creators should Aesthetics of Joy readers know about?
There is an interesting website run by a researcher/academic in Rotterdam: The World Database of Happiness. The layout of the site is dry aesthetically but I think that its wonderful that the subject of happiness is being studied in this way.
You can see more of Naomi’s work here. (In particular, make sure to check out Polka Dot Wall, a site-specific installation I find very joyful.) Images courtesy of Naomi London.