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Butternut Collage: getting to know you

Updated: May 13

Jake Kennedy is a collage artist from Hove, United Kingdom.

So far, so good.

This is the rather bland, standard first line of any introduction. I'm using it because it's buying me some time as I type with my two index fingers. I can cut paper like a champ, but I am no typist.

Also, I chose a plain intro line, because I want you to remember his name. You may thank me later.

Jake goes by Butternut Collage on social media. I won't speculate as to the reasons for choosing that moniker, but I will say that his collages do resemble the vegetable in that they have a tough skin that hides a sweet and vibrant interior.

He replied to my questions with a kind of deadpan honesty that I find delightful. No word salads. No tortured statements. The answers were painting a picture that felt quite relatable: ups and downs, indecision, perseverance and cats. I appreciate his sincerity, his nakedness, although not in the actual sense of the word, of course.

When I worked at an art gallery, I had the dubious honor of reading lots and lots of artist statements. Perhaps that is why I'm over the typical self-aggrandizing babble that seems to have been written by someone suffering from aphasia.

I had a maternal grandma who could talk anyone under the table. She used to amuse us by mixing up words that sounded similar. Nothing that came out of her mouth made complete sense. She had such a knack for coining memorable, unintelligible phrases that we started to write them down in what we called a "granny dictionary". In her defense, the war had truncated her education in the third grade, and she was constantly improvising. But true to family tradition, I digress...

What are the most important takeaways from Jake's words? Well, mine might differ from yours. I would suggest you reach your own conclusions by reading the whole interview. He is quite an interesting collage artist and you will not be disappointed.

For what is worth, and without any intention of prejudicing anyone, the following would be my favorite nuggets:

  • Expect to be rubbish when you start your journey.

  • Persevere...and then persevere some more.

  • Sometimes having a defined style is just plain boring.

  • Look at lots and lots of art.

  • Try new things (tools, materials, themes).

  • You can start without a destination in mind.

  • Beauty and ingenuity can coexist with cat litter trays. Make do.

  • Create for your own benefit.

Jake Kennedy maintains a delicate balance between destruction and preservation. The disassembled faces are like a riddle without a definite answer. This ambiguity makes each collage slightly unnerving. His images are a high wire act: they trap you at first glance and you can't look away. I find them beautifully unsettling.

I know you'll enjoy getting to know him. Read on.

When did you become acquainted with collage?

I started in 1993 at school. I did an art A level which was fun but I was pretty bad at it to be honest, but collage felt like the medium for me pretty much straight away, it could be serious, or funny, or abstract and there was an immediacy to it which was very satisfying. I went on to do an arts degree but it was a pretty rubbish course, so most of the collage I did in those days (late 1990s) was extra-curricular.

Then I just kept my hand in with it, until about 2015, when the Instagram age came about, and I found it was a good way of showcasing my work, but also keeping track of it. I have posted a piece there every day now for seven years and I’m proud of a fair few pieces there. There’s some terrible stuff, sure, but it’s a good way to track the journey.


Do you have a singular style or do you experiment a lot?

No, and I wish I did. I’m experimenting, and changing styles very regularly. Usually that comes down to my source material, but it can also be different ways of working with them I find online, or a new tool I find.

I think ‘destruction’ is the most recurring theme in my work. I can destroy an original picture until it’s unrecognisable, and waste a lot of time going further and further, usually taking it too far. But there are also humourous things, and I also like fonts, and mouldy paper. And a million other bits and bobs.

I’m very jealous of people with easily identifiable styles. If I sorted my work into themes I could have a style, for better or worse, but I would probably get bored, and it would only be one facet.


Which artist influenced you the most?

A big, odd combination. In the early days it was Pavement record sleeves and comedy – things like Chris Morris and and Vic’n’Bob. Certainly not collage artists, although I had seen some Peter Blake in the flesh, which I loved. And John Stezaker.

The classics still remain of course – I’ll always love Rothko, and Dan Flavin, and Cy Twombly, Callum Innes, John Furnival - but in this day and age you can interact with artists more online, so people on Instagram working with collage in precise or abstract ways like @moonloops or @vincentlascala or @billnoir.chaosmos


What materials do you enjoy using?

At the moment just a blade. I’ve tried a LOT of things over the years, from sandpaper to dental tools to drills and DIY stuff, a real mix. Content-wise, I’m easy to be honest, especially if working abstract. I do tend to focus on pics from the 50s and 60s, but recently I’ve been using very, very old paper which has its own story before you’ve even touched it – from the 20s and 30s.


What’s your current work like? Any recurring themes?

Currently I am working with paper from maybe 100+ years ago, and that can be a real eye opener in terms of its degradation and the patterns in it. I want to use paper that tells a story and doesn’t need a comedy pay-off or too much in the way of altering. Like, the story is already there.

Thematically, I’m just trying to work with space more. I used to think negative space was very important, but I’m not so sure now. I’m just making studies like that this current month. Next month it’ll probably be something different, dinosaurs and factories or something.


Can you describe your process?

No, not really! I have a certain way of working, but the process always changes. It’s determined by the materials at hand. I just lost my studio due to redevelopment, so I had to put a lot of stuff (well, basically all of it) in storage, save for a few boxes. So I’m working on a very limited range of things which is quite nice and considered.

I find an image or a nice stain, and then see what happens. I might use ink, or pencil, or reach for the sandpaper. Who knows. I never have a predetermined idea. Sometimes late at night in bed I will think of something to work on, a concept like ‘ball’ or something abstract like that, but that’s as much of a ‘route’ as I’ll ever take.


Can you tell us about your workspace?

It’s awful. It’s my spare room, which is tiny, and cramped and uncomfortable. My cats use it for their litter trays.

But it gets good light and it’s free. So I’m looking for more studio space, I need a little more space. I went from a large studio to a small room (maybe 6ft square) and it’s been challenging, but not impossible. My old studio got turned into a flat by the landlord. It was pretty sad.


Tell us about your plans and hopes for the future in relation to collage

My goal is to just keep going. That’s it. If I don’t do it, I get grouchy. I’m always wanting the next idea to form and to be satisfactory in its outcome. And I don’t want my desire to do it to fade away. I know I’m lucky that I have time and a mind to do it, but I don’t know if that will last forever.

Possibly I might take a break from Instagram and focus on just one body of work or style, but that’s as specific as I can be. I love collage, I love looking at collage and it’s beautiful when someone buys one of mine and takes pleasure from it. But I’m the person I need to please, ultimately, so I just need to continually find ways to keep doing that.

So far, so good…



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