Tongue-in-cheek humor is of the essence in the work of Philadelphia based artist JoKa. With themes of sex, violence, and beauty cleverly illustrated through pop culture imagery, JoKa’s twisted reality is an overwhelming delight not to be taken too seriously. Equally as mind-blowing is to know that JoKa creates all his art with toothpicks, a technique he refers to as “hyperpointillism”. In the vein of 19th century masters like Seurat or Paul Signac, JoKa paints tiny, distinct dots of pure color in patterns that when viewed from a distance forms an image.
As one of the artists participating in the 'Femme Fatale' show opening February 25th, we had a chat with this unique artist. Here JoKa talks about his creative process working with toothpicks, the concept behind his 'Femme Fatale' painting and why he's so inspired by the female figure.
You’re work is created through the use of toothpicks, a technique you describe as ‘hyperpointillism’. What about this particular method attracts you over traditional brushes and graphite?
I've been painting this way going on eight years now, so I've just become very used to it, thinking about a piece in layers, breaking it apart, and putting the colors back together like a puzzle. I think traditional painters experiment more on canvas and make some happy mistakes or discoveries, while I pretty much have to make all my decisions before paint goes down, for the most part. Sometimes a color scheme will be altered while I'm working on a piece, but only slightly. Not having to deal with the hassle of cleanup is a nice little treat as well.
This chosen method sounds very time consuming. Tell us about your creative process.
I find very alluring, the process of taking elements of pictures out of their context and using them to build new, different meanings. I predominantly like recontextualizing vintage photographs to comment on my perceived changes of values, be they cultural, ethical, or stylistic. As I find images, usually in old magazines, I’ll scan them and make digital collages till I find something that works. If I need something specific to fit a theme, I’ll take photos of my own to use.
In the case of “Strung Up in Timelust” (in the Femme Fatale show), I began with a picture a friend sent me, and built around it, based upon an idea that struck me. Every piece ends up being an ironic or sardonic take on how I see things, and it doesn’t completely gel with me until an appropriate title is in place that drives that point home.
Your work often depicts feminine allure cleverly illustrated through pop culture imagery. What about the female form do you find so intriguing and inspiring?
I will never tire of looking at attractive ladies, especially relieved of their attire, to put it as eloquently as possible. I can remember when I was little, being told to not look during the sexy time parts of certain movies, and I think that made the mystique of seeing the nude female form even more intriguing.
In my work though, I do like to poke holes at the conventional perception of beauty by interjecting things like baldness, lazy eyes, peg legs, and other malformations, only to point out the occasional overexertion we put on trying to make things beautiful and how we strive for perfection. More effort should be put into accepting things as they are, rather then trying to gussy them up for acceptance.
If you could hang only one artwork from art history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
That’s a really tough one, on par with the ‘only one album on a desert island’ kind of question. I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, so I'm going to cheat, and go with one of Eric White’s larger ‘Collusion’ pieces, which have numerous pictures within one big painting. There would always be something new to discover within each tiny piece.
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn’t necessarily know.
I've never pumped my own gas, and I really dislike flip-flops.
If I were to spend the day with JoKa what could I expect?
A lot of lounging, (consisting of lots of wasted internet time, watching movies, gaming and constant snacking), with intermittent breaks for painting. I don’t usually work in one long chunk, but will work for an hour or two, then break, and then go back and forth pretty much throughout the day. Oh, and I wouldn’t expect to get to bed before 6AM, so bring some caffeine.