Source: Telegraph Journal, Saint John, NB, Date: August, 2006, Article by Grant Kerr
Saint John artist Jason Fitzpatrick comes home
By Grant Kerr
Telegraph – Journal
At age 13, when most boys are nurturing their first crush, Jason Fitzpatrick was inking himself his first tattoo.
Using one of his mother’s sewing needles, he burned the pointed tip with a match, would it wit thread dipping in India ink, then methodically pierced the skin of his leg. As ink and blood mixed Fitzpatrick gritted his teeth, finishing a small skull that he wears to this day. Over the ensuing two decades, the Saint John native – artistically known as Jason W. Fowler Fitzpatrick – has acquired much more body art.
For many, tattoos are just another craze, like a hardcore, permanent version of the hula hoop. “Look at me,” they call out. “See how cool I am?”
But Fitzpatrick, the artist, takes them seriously. He’s not sure how many, but figures he has in the neighbourhood of 20.
That body of work, his body, is key to his new show, body/marks. which opens tonight at the City of Saint John Gallery ) Saint John Arts Centre, 20 Hazen Ave.).
“I thought it (tattoos) was a good way of expressing yourself and I wanted to extend it and wanted to pull it,” Fitzpatrick said Thursday, standing in the midst of his show at the SJAC. By “pull it”, Fitzpatrick means literally. The dozen-or-so works in the “body” half of the show are pulled straight from the artist’s muscular frame. The finished works, protectively encased in glass, are ink and blood on paper.
This tattoo art was rendered at events, or “actions, where a tattoo artist inked Fitzpatrick in a gallery setting. A third participant, a print maker, was on standby to press paper against the artist’s weeping flesh, capturing the finished works.
While some are gently undulating lines, one series of prints calls out, “HEPC”. Literally.
The fact that an audience is present when the work is being rendered makes the process all the more on the edge.
“They took that print off my chest and the audience went, “Whoa!” and backed up a bit,” Fitzpatrick said, still pleased at the shock value of the “action”.
“It’s about the doing of it, the tensions.”
FITZPATRICK: First Show Back in
Saint John since the year 2000
What wasn’t lost on the audience is that Fitzpatrick has hepatitis C, although he says he doesn’t know how he picked it up. He’s healthy, though, with a ruddy complexion, strong-limbed in black jeans, untucked white collared shirt and jeans jacket, shod in black, pull-on boots. His short blond hair juts to one side like a tongue.
“I’m supposed to go for a checkup every six months,” Fitzpatrick said, fresh off two exhibitions in Toronto.
A cement worker by day, this is Fitzpatrick’s first show back in Saint John since he left for Vancouver in 2000.
Growing up in the Port City, Fitzpatrick was known as much for his art as his bad boy nature and flirtation with drugs: cocaine and heroin among them.
But he’s cleaned up, got married, has an infant son and has pursued his art with a vengeance. In Saint John, he co-founded The Space co-operative in the 1990’s and is still immersed in artist run centres on the West Coast. He earned his masters degree in fine art in 2004 (University of Windsor) and admits that, like in his paid vocation, he likes to push himself in his art.
Body/marks is as much about the process as the art on the walls.
Two of the works in the main room of the City Gallery – Jennifer and Mark – are 30 foot rolls of paper, hung high with the majority of the drawings unseen and still rolled.
The huge works took about a year each to create, scribbling graphite sticks on paper, creating a textured sheen of blackness.
Fitzpatrick had to learn to use his left hand to complete the gruelling, often mind-numbing task.
“Day one to day 30, you have to keep making things up (in your head) to keep it up as a task,” Fitzpatrick said.
It’s the journey that counts as much as the destination in Fitzpatrick’s world.
“The way I approach conceptual art is that the actual process and the ending (result), it’s an extension of ideas.”
Rubbed is a rubbing of a drawing. Two others are drawings, using some of the same process as the large works, but incorporate Fitzpatrick’s handmade crayons as well.
Across the hall in the Frazee Gallery, some more of his work sits alongside that of his mother Joanne Fitzpatrick’s traditional paintings.
No stranger to art openings, Jason Fitzpatrick is a shade nervous.
“This is a big deal for me. This is were I was born.