We are in Lewes. The Sussex town known for it’s quirky traditions, it’s teeming history and it’s winding streets. For Joe Webb, it’s also the main source of his inspirations. The book shops and charity shops providing a rich variety of images for this work.
“I kind of go on instinct to try and find something that will trigger an idea” Joe tells me of his method. Inspired by the work of American collage artist Robert Rauschenberg. He would create works used from found materials from within a few blocks of his studio. “It’s that sort of approach that I like to take” says Joe. “Where I head out and I’m not sure where I’m about to go.”
A lot of Joe’s works are inspired and produced from images of the 50’s. It’s the source of much of his material. “It just seems to be an era that I’m naturally drawn to” he explains. “I really like the colours and the way (they’re) printed…. It manifests its way into the artwork. It’s just the kind of imagery that I start with when working on collages.”
Webb’s journey into becoming a full time artist was an serendipitous one. Entering a competition for budding collage artists at the Saatchi Gallery. There his efforts were noticed. A runner up, it became a launchpad for his artistic career. First exhibiting and then beginning to sell his art in the Saatchi itself. It was only a matter of time before he would also start to work with the likes of Art Republic.
WORLD ON A PLATTER
His break in the art world and the acknowledgement of where he is now still seems be something that Joe remains humble about. “I still kind of can’t believe it” he tells me. “Every month is still a bit like… is it going to be okay to keep doing this? If you just believe and have self-belief in what you are doing and that it will work out. Then these things will work out.”
The decision to turn full time as an artist wasn’t taken lightly. Struggling for work as a graphic designer at the height of the last recession. It was then he took the plunge. Working for years experimenting with different artistic styles and techniques. It was the collage work that had started to make sense. Having just bought a house and with a young family to raise, art possibly wasn’t the most secure career choice. Yet it was one which made sense at the time. That belief in his work and himself, beginning to shine through.
LIVING ON AUTO PILOT
Environmental concerns and a call to stop and think seem to be at the heart of his work. He talks with passion about the concept of noticing. Of stopping and looking at the world. One of his most famous images. That of a waiter holding the world up by a platter is about just that. “We have everything we need” Joe tells me, “the world is there on a platter”.
“We live in a kind of auto-pilot mode” he says. “Not really looking up at the world and appreciating the moment that we’re in.” Coming out in his work this sense of awe and wonder cuts through. This thought about how people choose to go about living their lives but without looking up or around. It’s something that Joe himself does a lot of now and that is what shines in his work. The observation of what is around him and what he might find, not only in the streets of Lewes, but beyond.
Joe Webb was interviewed in Lewes on Sunday 10 March 2019. The interview was part of our ‘Art Related Noise (formerly Nonsense)’ podcast series with the Art Republic Gallery in Brighton. To subscribe to the podcast have a look here.