In Dialogue with Jacob Barnes, Editor in chief, Soft Punk Magazine
Now + Never, a virtual solo exhibition of new works by London-based gestural artist Marcus Aitken, is released in tandem with Soft Punk’s latest publication. The exhibition will be made available online from November 16th, 2020 via Soft Punk’s web platform. In this interview for Art Spiel, Jacob Barnes, the London and New York based co-founder and editor of this literary arts and culture quarterly, shares some of the background for his publication and for Marcus Aitken’s virtual art exhibit.
AS: You say that the publication is “intentionally agnostic of a ‘house style’ and liberated from dogmatic conceptions of brow.” Can you elaborate on your premise and share the background for founding the publication?
JB We were interested in founding an outlet that reflected our values, while mirroring the way we felt we had come to navigate the world as young professionals and creatives. On one hand, being “’agnostic of a house style’ and liberated from dogmatic conceptions of brow” is our way of telling the world that their voice is welcome, however it may be articulated – you don’t need to write fancily to write for us, you just need to write like you, and that will shine through.
With that said, it had also been our collective experience as writers and artists that we kept being told to write a certain way or produce work a certain way; ways which weren’t our own. This is a publication that is open to experimentation and sincerity. Sometimes that experimentation might not pay off, but every writer and every piece are different, and sometimes the best way to respect that is to leave notions about how things ‘should’ be done at the proverbial door.
AS: How do you select the visual art for the publication?
JB: Really, a lot of it is intuition and personal feeling. With that said, we tend to do things as a group, so there’s always a bit of back and forth – sometimes there will be things that others are more excited about than I am, and vice versa, and it’s in that discussion that we can find work that will appeal to our readership, which is intentionally very broad. And then, of course, we have work that just blows all of us away, and that’s really the golden ticket.
AS: What drew you to Marcus Aitken’s work?
JB: I think one of the things that really stood out about Marcus’ work was the strength found in experimentation, and the continual unwillingness to compromise his practice or to rest on his laurels. When this all started, months and months ago, I had scoped out some of his work online, and then did a studio visit, and realized that Marcus’ older practice was much different, but that you could see the development into his more recent work. And even then, looking at the more recent style he’s developed, there’s always this willingness to probe; to try new things – the use of plywood, the various gestural motions (thick, reserved strokes alongside more delicate loops), color pairings. It seemed to me that this was an artist who was always looking to take risks and expand, and that was something I found very appealing.
Also, I’ve found that in an art world that often features a lot of figurative work, Marcus’ gestural practice has its place too, and that his work could be equally affecting. Especially in this series for us, it became clear that there were some very serious ideas subtending the work, and I really love how this abstracted work leaves symbolism and metaphor behind, focusing directly on the expression of feeling though movement.
AS: How has this virtual show come together?
JB: Well, it’s lockdown. We can’t have a physical show but through some of the recent work that we’ve been doing with Guts Gallery and Custorian, this way of exhibiting art kind of became the silver lining in a dark cloud – the VR is such an immersive experience, and having gotten some experience with it recently, I felt comfortable we could do something exciting and effective with Marcus’ show.
AS: How has the pandemic impacted your publication and how are you adapting?
JB: Look, it’s always going to hurt; no one expects retail industries to boom during a global health crisis. However, we’ve been really, really lucky to find people who are eager to support us through tough times, and in that, we’ve been lucky enough to just release our third issue, Issue 03: Beginnings End, which is hitting stores this week.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: email@example.com