Published on March 3, 2014 | by Matteo Besana

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Jude Cowan Montague: Music, printing and prizes

Jude Cowan Montague stand in her living room surrounded by art

With interests ranging politics to music, to art and her love of animals, Montague is as eclectic as an artist gets. [Tom Setterfield]

Arts London News meet Jude Cowan Montague, an artist who, after having completed her MA in Printmaking at Camberwell College of Arts in 2013, has just been awarded with the Gwen May RE Prize from the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

The Gwen May RE Prize is an award instituted by The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers which funds two student winners £500 annually in order to support their development in the art of printmaking.

The prize also gives the winners the possibility to showcase their art pieces at Bankside Gallery and at the Royal Academy London Original Print Fair, as a member of The Royal Society.

As I begin to talk with Montague over a hot cup of tea, I’m struck by the amount of things in which she is interested in, from politics to music, to art and her love of animals, Montague is as eclectic as an artist gets.

Whilst we talk about the printmaking process, she pets her active Bedlington Terrier, Solly, which has been used as both an inspiration and a subject itself of Montague’s work, as she is keen to point out as soon as he comes to the kitchen door.

“I’m fascinated by movements and I like to work quickly and capture manually animals in movement. I can stare for hours at animals looking at things and moving, I just find it compelling,” she says.

Improvisation

Her living room is filled with music equipment that her and her boyfriend have amassed, as both are practising musicians.

Montague cites playing the synthesisers and musical improvisation as being fundamental pillars of her work while in the workshop: “I am improvising to create my work, something that I do also when I play music.”

Apart from being an artist, a musician and hosting a radio show on Resonance FM called The News Agent, where ‘news meets arts’, Montague also has a job as an archivist at the press agency, Reuters.

As I look at a black piece of art work which won Montague this year’s prize, I ask her if she uses black to describe a feeling or a situation of sadness.

“I wouldn’t say the black is dark, I would say it is more interesting. I’m sort of getting inside the feeling of the story, I just look at black and white as most people do. There is something very attractive about these opposites,” she replies.

“I think it does set up an imaginative space, black and white, slightly far away, a bit different from your normal world because our normal world is so full of colours and shades. The black and white seems to set up a bit of an alternative state for me,” Montague adds.

Learning

We live in an austerity economy, in which university and its higher costs have become a commodity, a luxury which often people cannot afford anymore, so I ask her if it is worth doing a MA degree and whether it is something she would recommend.

Her reply is quite reassuring: “I always wanted to go back to college and develop printmaking in particular, because I felt I had really unfinished business there.

“I wouldn’t have done what I always wanted to do if I hadn’t done a master’s. I would never have the confidence to go into the studio and build my own style and way of working.” Jude Cowan Montague

“I wouldn’t have done what I always wanted to do if I hadn’t done a master’s. I would never have the confidence to go into the studio and build my own style and way of working. It is not copying someone else; it might be influenced but it’s going to be my thing.” Montague added.

In the art world, there has always been the debate between explaining a piece whilst showcasing or giving less information to the people that come and see your work, so they can visually decide what the artwork may be.

Interpretations

Montague prefers for viewers to take a look at the art pieces and decide its meaning for themselves: “I like people to come at them [the works] and see what they want because there are hinted narratives in it and they are quite immersive. I like people to immerse in the sense of narrative and make up their own stories, which I think you do even if you don’t make a full story in the sense of beginning, middle and end. You still see a story and you have feeling about that.”

The prize winning artworks are resting against the wall in elegant frames, which Montague tells me were handmade by herself and her boyfriend, becoming a part of the artwork itself.

The glass functions as a mirror, for the buyer to see their reflection in, which also becomes a part of the piece and follows the tradition of Francis Bacon.

As I prepare to leave after an extended chat with Montague, she becomes quite nostalgic in describing how radical London was when she first moved here in the early ’90s.

She briefly explained how this community – which was so essential to her development as an artist, has been reduced to small groups across London which “will be very difficult to maintain”. 

 

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