A Conversation with Jazmin Velasco

Published 15 August 2017

We know you best for your wonderful prints, what is it about printmaking that you enjoy? 

The process from beginning to end is a joy.  From the moment when the idea appears the next steps are like a holiday. The idea can come completely prepared: I could see perfectly in which technique to make it, colours composition, etc. Other times that decision is part of the process but that is fun too, like solving a puzzle. Then is the zen part, the technical part when you sit down and work on the plate: remember to keep breathing, relaxing the shoulders, the elbow, the wrist. I’ve always been fast in this step though, perhaps I’m not into zen that much and I’ve never been armed with patience, I want the idea to go to the paper quickly, quickly. Once the paper, ink and press are ready the only problem left to solve is which music to listen to for this last step, when the sensory and motor neurones take over and the intellect can rest. Michael Nyman has great rhythm for printing I find. Bach too, but depending on the mood of the day The Beatles can do a fine job or Rufus Wainwright.

What is your favourite printing process?

Most artists do the right thing by sticking to one technique and get better and better at it due to years of working at perfecting it. I get bored if I do the same thing again and again. I started with linocut while I was re-learning a variety of printing techniques at Morley college, however, I felt that neither etching nor lithography suited me (I mentioned lack of patience before, this techniques are just too lengthy, complex and tedious), but around that time I heard of a Japanese machine that now is defunct called gocco which is a miniature screen print studio. I got ahold of one and made a series of prints with it. When it became too difficult to find inks for it I moved to wood engraving and letterpress, which I still do, until some other fascinating ancient-in-danger-of-disappearing technique appears.

Can you remember the first print you ever made?

God no. I learned printmaking first in Mexico but that was around a million years ago. I bet it was a cat or a chicken or something like that.

Your works always bring a smile to our faces, how would you describe your sense of humour?

Do they? by God. I’m glad. I suspected soon enough that I couldn’t really make pictures that would bring feelings of despair to people (like a Francis Bacon painting or a Chekhov book, for example to the point of committing suicide before you finish the story) or mild depression (like a Leonard Cohen song), or inflame feelings of injustice and push you to go to the streets and protest (like the prints of Leopoldo Mendez) so I don’t even try. I grew up surrounded by cartoonists (my father was one of them) reading comics, etc. Moreover smiling and finding the funny side of things is good for you, it prevents all sorts of illnesses.

Fox with Insomia

Fox with Insomia

Many of the themes in your work seem to be inspired by ‘Britishness’, is this something that came about when you moved to the UK?

Oh, I’ve always been an anglophile. I find you all and the history of Britain exceedingly fascinating. Very soon after I moved to London I learned of the existence of a class system -which in Mexico is defined by how much money and cars you have, nothing else- but here is so much more complex and intricate that I’ve set myself upon disentangling the many indentations and twists of it to get to understand it, recording my reflections and discoveries on prints for future alien civilisations, when humans no longer exist.


Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy

You have mentioned being inspired by works by Jose Guadalupe Posada and Saul Steinberg, can you explain why you’re drawn to these artists?  

The short answer would be three things: their humour, the strong graphic appeal (Posada) and the amazing wonderful wit (Steinberg)


What was the most influential exhibition that you have visited?

The most influential exhibition I’ve visited? I can’t really say. When I lived in London I went almost every other day to a museum or a gallery and the big expensive exhibitions etc. and I always get something out of them, always. 

And if you could meet one famous artist, living or dead who would it be and why?

Only one? Among the dead ones will have to be a choice between Steinberg who everybody says he was the coolest guy, -horrible man with his women though-, the same as Picasso, Jose Guadalupe Posada or the painter Mary Newcomb. Alive? I will perhaps be content meeting Grayson Perry or if I can meet soon again my friend Alejandro Magallanes who is the most amazing artist in Mexico right now. I haven’t seen him for ages.

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