JKB Fletcher has had is work featured not once but two times on Empty Kingdom because of how dopenasty it is. Combining hyperrealism and comic characters he shows a close and very human perspective of our heroes. Check out his interview,
What part of the UK are you from? What was it like growing up?
I am from Redditch, a small town south of Birmingham. I have good memories as a kid playing football with my mates and spending a lot of time with my family who have always been very supportive of me becoming an artist.
How culturally different are the UK and Australia? What is something that you appreciate about Australia that the UK lacks? What is something you’re still trying to get used to?
I have been living in Melbourne for over five years now. What I have come to appreciate in Australia is the variety of food and outdoor lifestyle due the better weather. The people have a very welcoming nature and it is very culturally diverse. Still trying to get used to the 40 degree days and Christmas in shorts. There always seems to be something to do in Melbourne, whether it is in the arts, sports, etc.
Why have you chosen hyperrealistic art as your medium of choice? What about it is so enticing to you?
Two reasons; the first one being that it is such a sense of achievement when you finish something that looks realistic, so ever since I found out how to do it I have been riding that high. The second reason would be that I find it interesting how people approach a realistic painting over any other style of painting, because they see it first as an ‘image’ and then as a ‘painting’, so it is judged differently to say an impressionistic painting, which you would notice as a ‘painting’ first and then an ‘image’. Obviously, this affects the relationship between the viewer and the painting.
In your ‘About’ section you ask whether photorealism or hyperrealism is really so different than a photograph. Do you find yourself focusing on certain aspects of the photograph that you want to jump out of the page more than others or is each painting an entirely honest recreation?
I carefully choreograph the photo, in the painting every brush stroke is an expression of my vision and understanding of that photo. This expression is what forms another medium and separates the painting from the photograph.
Who is your favorite superhero and why?
I have two; Spiderman and Dr Manhattan. Spiderman takes up the role of a superhero reluctantly because he understands the importance of a greater good and Dr Manhattan is a philosophical personification of the universe around us and an individuals dilemma in it.
Most of your photos focus on a very small part of the subject, they’re ‘zoomed in’. What about the very close view do you find appealing? What does it represent to you? How can you say more by selecting a specific piece of your subject and highlighting it?
By going close you separate the image from the person, thereby unifying the symbol for the ‘individual’ or viewer. This further accentuates the ambiguity of the image leading to the viewer spending more time looking at it.
Your series ‘Role Models’ is much more developed than the earlier DKNY and Wrangler ads that you added superhero paint costumes to. How have you matured artistically and personally between the different paintings?
Though they influence each other they are two different projects, one of them is designed for site specific work, which are altered advertisements whereas the oil paintings are a more refined body of work. Each of the projects has leant me a unique way to view a similar theme.
One of the comments we got on the site criticized your work as overly pornographic and sexual, how would you respond to them? Do you think there’s any truth to that statement or is it a baseless accusation?
I probably wouldn’t respond to them. I can’t answer for what other people find overly sexual but I do believe there is a sexual element in the work, I find there to be a sexual element in most figurative paintings, photography and superheroes for that matter. So I would find it difficult to find a figurative painting of superheroes without a sexual slant.
Why have you focused your work primarily on women? Do you think there is something of inherent value that the female figure has that the male figure does not?
It mostly has to do with the attitude people have towards the female form. There is an inherent value in the female form, and the fact that they are hugely out weighed by male superheroes in the comic books all helps towards creating a relatable human being in the paintings as opposed to an actor playing a superhero or a portrayal of the superhero themselves.
There is such a disparity between the number of male and female superheroes, why do you think this is? Female superheroes are ultra sexualized, do you think the portrayal of male superheroes is similar? Why or why not? What do you think such dichotomies say about our society?
I think you are right to suggest a societal influence. We stand on the shoulders of Giants. Superman was created in the 30’s and he certainly wasn’t the first hero. Nostalgic attitudes towards historic comics are influencing the stories in todays writing, so it’s no surprise that the attitude towards women in the comics can often be a little dated, but I’d put it down to unimaginative writing/story telling over anything else. I believe both male and female superheroes are ultra sexualised due to clever marketing and a basic human appeal, I don’t really see a problem with it until it’s being sold to children.
How far apart are the ‘DoJ’ and ‘Role Models’ series? What did you do in that time to challenge yourself, to make yourself a better painter?
The DoJ work was painted through Uni and the first few group shows after Uni. I always enjoyed the technical challenges and each painting I did I wanted to push a little further technically. I wouldn’t say there was a distinct gap in the two series that was filled with painting experience, it was more to the point that I didn’t stop painting. Each painting feeds into the next whether through technique or theory and the difference between ‘DOJ’ and ‘Role Models’ is an example to that fact.
Where is the most beautiful place you’ve been recently?
Funny you should ask, I was recently in Amsterdam for a wedding, despite what you hear about the crude tourist attractions I have to say that place was stunning and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.