The concept of a
semionaut is intriguing and quiet relevant to most of the creative
output of the information age. A term coined by Nicolas Bourriaud in
his book, “Postproduction,” a semionaut is someone who produces a
creative output through the utilization of existing material,
concepts, beats, words, and so on. It focuses more on building upon
history and expanding the cultural signs and values, then the abstract
originality that some strive to achieve. It is the blending of these
various materials and genres that will ultimately create an original
Jackie Tileston is a Philadelphia-based painter and winner of a 2006
Guggenheim Fellowship, and she recently debut her latest work at
Chicago’s Zg Gallery. The exhibit, Adventures of the Semionauts,
opened on September 7th and runs through October 13th. When describing
her work in her most recent artist statement Jackie uses words like
"knit", "reconstruct", "feed off", but she lays out her main objective
in these two sentences. "I am interested in visual democracies,
nomadic thinking, rearranging hierarchies, and trying to fuse personal
expression with shared social and cultural spaces, in full pictorial
glory. My goal is that my work can transform its multiple sources into
a stronger, weirder, and more complex pictorial version of the world,
a millennial baroque environment of inclusion." Much like the DJ we
will hear from later this week, Jackie is taking these various sources
found in the global/cultural tool box and combining them with equal
parts imagination and ingenuity to create an incredibly unique
Jackie took some time to answer a few of our questions.
Orange Alert (OA):
How would you describe your work?
Jackie Tileston (JT):
Complex, multilayered, intense, nomadic, heterotopic, colorful,
visually opulent. The day I was in the gallery in Chicago there were a
bunch of high school students prowling the galleries on assignment. I
heard some describe the paintings as "rock star" and "mad cool". I
You utilize a variety different of paints and pigments in your work.
How did this "collage" approach come about? Does each type of paint
represent something different in your work?
No, the materials
don't represent anything specific, but each material does function
differently in terms of its sensual presence, and how it creates
space. For example, the powdered pigments, which tend to float, have a
completely different feel from the oil enamel, which tends to be very
glossy and sits right on the surface. I've always been attracted to
the physical realities of paintings and how they are made, and I want
my paintings to be completely satisfying in this regard....We're so
used to seeing images mediated by the computer and media that have no
physicality or surface.
At first I was intrigued by the names of your pieces, but then I read
that you only began to name your work to ease the confusion between
you and your dealer. Is there any meaning behind the titles of your
pieces? Do you prefer to have titles on your work, as way to
distinguish your work from "Untitled 221"? Can a clever title like
"Disembodied Under Different Skies" make a piece more memorable?
I've never been a fan of the "untitled #205" way of
titling work, but neither do I want a title to try and "explain" the
piece, which is condescending. I usually try and find titles that fit
the sensibility of the work, or the experience I want to create, or
are provocative/evocative. I like titles that expand the reading of
the painting rather than closing it down. I do think a good title can
make a painting memorable (hopefully the image itself is too). A
critic from L.A. once said to me "You give good title". I was
Your current show at Zg Gallery, Adventures of Semionauts, is you
second show in Chicago. What is your impression of the Chicago gallery
scene? How does it compare to New York and Philly
I can't say I'm all that familiar with the scene there. New York is,
well, New York, and there really isn't anything to compare with it's
intensity, quantity, importance, etc. The Philly gallery scene is
probably sleepier than Chicago, more dominated by younger artists and
alternative spaces because of the large number of art
schools/universities here. In terms of galleries/collectors, we're
very close to NYC, which means if there are serious contemporary
collectors, they are probably shopping in Chelsea and not Old City.
What does the word "Semionaut" mean to you?
It's a word I encountered while reading Nicholas Bourriaud's
"Postproduction" essay - I suspect he made it up. It refers to those
(like DJ's, internet users, artists) who invent pathways through signs
and cultures, imagining the links and relations between disparate
sites. It seemed like a pretty good description of what I'm trying to
do with my work, so I used the word for the title of my show. I like
that people have to try and infer the meaning by combining "semiotics"
If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite
Sorry. I'm a tea hound. Earl Grey, lemon, two spoons of sugar. My
Do you listen to music while you paint? Who are some of your favorites
while painting and in general?
I almost ALWAYS listen to music in the studio. It helps keep out brain
chatter and maintain flow. I do have one rule, which is NO lyrics in
English while I'm working - most of them tend to whine, and that's not
really what I'm going for in the work, so I don't want that vibe in my
head. I listen to mostly world/fusion/ambient/indian/techno stuff, in
and out of the studio. Current favorites are DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Nitin
Sawhney, Karsh Kale, Loop Guru, Gigi, kirtan stuff, etc.