After Nyne Meets Hyper-Realist SJ Fuerst Ahead of Lot 5 Collective’s Latest Exhibition Face Value

Lot 5 Collective’s fourth exhibition, Face Value, will be staged at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, London, running from 8 – 17 November 2018.

The six artists that make up the collective, Lizet Dingemans, SJ Fuerst, Lucas Garcia, Luca Indraccolo, Helen Masacz and Harriet Spratt, seek to ‘reconcile contradictions by applying traditional techniques to modern themes, combining classical beauty with contemporary culture, and uniting expression with representation’ – using the old to create the new.

Face Value focuses on contemporary portraiture, and also will feature a number of international guest artists. These include Felicia Forte, whose painting Time Traveler, (Matthew Napping) was awarded Second Prize at the 2018 BP Portrait Awards, as well as Lewis Hazelwood-Horner who won the Columbia Threadneedle Prize in 2016.

One of the most exciting participants in the show is SJ Fuerst whose hyper-real paintings fuse both classical and pop sensitivities creating a surreal world where the animals are inflatable and the figures feel so real you expect them to wink at you.

 Creating playful tableaus that reinterpret elements of contemporary culture, each work by Fuerst is a slightly twisted version of the familiar. She is inspired by costume, toys, and fashion photography, and often incorporates the surreal atmosphere and compositional strategies of the latter to invoke a sense of fantasy. We had the chance to sit down with SJ to find out more about her practice and Lot 5 Collective’s upcoming exhibition.

Your work is extremely distinctive often making the viewer question whether it is a painting or photograph – how did you develop this hyper-real style?

I’ve always been drawn to representational art. I think it’s because I like the challenge of trying to accurately capture what I see with paint. I instinctively focused my studying on learning to draw and paint the figure, first with pre-college life drawing classes at Parson’s New School, and then hopping through art schools looking for rigorous technical training.

My realistic style of has been influenced most by the two ateliers I attended – the Florence Academy of Art and the London Atelier or Representational Art. Here I learned the importance of careful observation and actually eliminating the nonessential visual information.  I pay attention to the details and subtleties that I see in nature, but I’m not painting every hair on the model or every crease in the inflatable like a photorealist would.  When you see my work in person there is no mistaking them as photographs; up close the paintings have a brushy, impressionistic feel.

Drawing from fashion, pop art and contemporary culture your paintings create a surreal world that is both playful and serious – what draws you to this subject matter?

It’s simply what I love. The great thing about being a fine artist is that you can paint anything that inspires you. When I look around what genuinely inspires me to paint are playful things, like inflatable toys and costumes; I think that’s just a reflection of my personality coming through my work. However, there needs to be a balance.  Life is so fascinating because it’s full of fun things, serious things, beautiful things, and some dark things. I want my work to reflect this. Without the right mix of these elements a painting feels empty and one-dimensional, but when you find that balance you can create something really captivating. That’s the challenge that draws me to this subject matter, and what I try to express with my art.

You are one of the founding members of the Lot 5 Collective – can you tell us more about the Collective and its aims?

Lot 5 Collective was formed by five of us, all friends and classically trained painters, who are passionate about our practise.  It started as a way to help each other and exhibit our work, it’s much more inspiring to organize exhibitions with a group of artists you admire than to do it exclusively on your own. I also think an artist’s voice is stronger when among a group of like-minded individuals, look at the Impressionists for example, so forming a collective was a natural step for us.

There are 6 of us now, each with a unique artistic style, but we share a love for representational painting and a desire to make work that is undeniably contemporary. This is really Lot 5 Collective’s aim, to bring attention to art that embraces contemporary culture as well as classical painting techniques.

Your part of Lot 5 Collective’s upcoming exhibition Face Valuewhat is the show about and what kind of work will you be exhibiting?

Face Value is a fantastic exhibition of contemporary portrait and figurative artists. In addition to our work we’re exhibiting pieces by 22 guest artists who share Lot 5’s passion for using representational drawing and painting to create contemporary art. The artists in Face Value are all extremely accomplished technically but use their skills to express something more than just good craftsmanship. It’s going to be a very cool exhibition!

For Face Value I’ll be exhibiting ‘Trophy Wall’, which was inspired by inflatable taxidermy, and ‘Midsummer’, my newest painting with a magical, summery interpretation of your classic Christmas reindeer decorations. This will also be the first time I exhibit my Floppy Paintings, which are miniature oil sketches done on 3.5” floppy disks – old tech new paintings! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed painting over old school papers, as well as some of the best games and programs of the 90s.

You were recently named by GQ as one of the top ten artists working today – are there any future plans / projects you can share with us?

I have some very exciting paintings coming up! I don’t want to give too much away, but the inspiration behind them ranges from Michelangelo’sDavid to Gigi Hadid, with a healthy dose of inflatables of course.

I’m also working with Lily Agius towards an exhibition in Malta next year at Lily Agius Gallery, and we’re already starting to plan our next exhibition with Lot 5 Collective, so 2019 is going to be an exciting year!

For the duration of the exhibition, the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery will be open from 10.30am – 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and closing at 2pm on Saturday 17thNovember.

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IMAGE CREDIT: SJ Fuerst, Trophy Wall, Oil on canvas