Student blog: Jo Peel

Hello all it is me again, Chandni. This is my last article in the series of three for Off the Shelf. The final talk I attended was by Jo Peel, an artist from Sheffield.

Jo Peel produces street art of industrial landscapes on the sides of large buildings using spray paint. In this talk, Jo explained that her work is about things constantly changing and the humanity of our environment. She said that if change ends then nature will take over, and this is illustrated vividly in her work.

Jo started her journey by doing a foundation in art at Sheffield. She then decided to move to Falmouth and did a degree in illustration. Jo lived in Cornwall for three years, creating sketchbooks of rubbish that she had found. Unfortunately, tourists were more interested in seaside landscapes than her drawings. She had a similar response when she travelled to India and drew pictures of rubbish.

Jo wanted to make artwork and wanted people to like it. This led to Jo producing paintings of urban landscapes. Her first sale was in Brighton, but on her way to deliver it she dropped it and it got ran over by a bus… Panic and worry ensued. However, the clients loved it and she produced a further painting of Brighton pier for them.

Travelling the world

Art then took Jo all over the world. She went on to produce screen prints and did a residency at an art hotel, painting a room in Penzance and Brighton. Next, she painted in a handbag factory in Bali. Soon there emerged an urge to do an animation. Jo began painting a side of a building in London and photographing it as she progressed, and heartbreakingly the file got stolen. But this did not deter her. She then made a similar animation in Shoreditch. She played us the video, and it was really exciting and impressive to see how much work had gone into it. And to the surprise of me and the audience, it only took her three weeks to produce and a further week to edit.

From this piece she got noticed by Chanel and was asked to produce a commission for them in China, she showed us a video of how it was made. This video was more professional as she now had financial backing. This was followed by a paid residency in Poland for a week and then she worked for a company called Alternative London. This allowed her to produce a film called Pipe Dreams, which depicts the development of industrial cities. She had many commissions after this, some of which include a winter festival commission for the Gift Factory, a mural in the Olympic Park, commissions in Japan, Leeds, Rotherham and Tasmania. She has also worked with Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield's Department of Landscape on the Chelsea Flower show.

Sheffield's influence

Jo has also had a piece of work in our own Millennium Gallery and still has a few pieces of street art dotted round Sheffield, such as under the underpass near the University of Sheffield and at Hagglers Corner. However, when asked if she would like to paint anywhere else in Sheffield, Jo said “not really, I live here. I’d have to look at it all the time, I prefer them far away”. Jo said that she is highly influenced by Sheffield’s architecture and is interested in how people care about buildings in Sheffield.

Jo states that besides Sheffield, she is inspired by music and photography. But she hates seeing work like hers because she wants her work to be unique. Then to wrap up, a woman asked a question that a lot of us have pondered… “How do you feel about the impermanence of your work? That it may fade, get painted over and defaced.” Due to Jo’s dominating theme of change, she said that she likes that her work is impermanent and that it is a process that gives her pieces more history. They are layers of a story. The impermanence of street art is what makes it so precious. Photographers have to try to snap it up before it disappears into the environment. What a beautiful sentiment.

Thank you for reading! I will be continuing my blogs on the Sheffield Hallam Insiders blog page if you would like to stay tuned.

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