To those well-acquainted with screen printing and the American grunge music scene of the 90s, Jeff Ross is a legend. From the late 80s to noughties, Jeff printed merch and posters for over 500 bands and companies out of Seattle, including Nirvana. In the last decade, the German-born American artist has been heavily focused on producing his own expressions, developing a signature style of collaging and street art. Having been based in Bangkok for the last four years, creating and exhibiting a great variety of works locally, the artist is now moving on to the much colder climates of Belgrade, Serbia, but not without one last show at his favourite venue.
Thailand Tatler recently had the chance to visit Jeff Ross’ closing Bangkok studio to have a chat with him about his upcoming collaborative exhibition at Jam with Belgium artist Toska Vosd.
So tell us about your exhibition opening this Saturday, February 23, at Jam.
The exhibition is called Seen Unseen II. Seen Unseen I was four years ago when I met Toska at Jam. We put a group show together. I came up with the name Seen Unseen, and the idea was: what we do is around you but you have to see it and once you do, you can’t go by and not see it anymore.
This show is also kind of my swan song show in Bangkok now that I’m moving to Serbia.
What was the first Seen Unseen like?
With Seen Unseen I, we put the show together within a couple of days. We had the idea. Jam had the space. It just came together. The work I showed then was the stuff that had just started coming out of me in Thailand. There were a lot of other people in the show, not just me and Toska. It was all abstract work and kind of an early graffiti street art show just as people were starting to realise it was around here.
What will be different with Seen Unseen II?
My work is going to be a lot simpler. Seen Unseen I was also a group show, but this one will just be me and Toska.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Toska the first time and why again this time?
Toska’s and my abstract work fit really well together. The flow of the drawings, the designs and the colors—we think the same. We don’t have to explain our work to each other.
Can you elaborate on your artistic chemistry with Toska—what’s it like working with him?
It’s fun, and it’s easy. Working with him feels like two old men sitting on a porch, watching the street.
What kind of pieces can we expect to see from you in the show opening this weekend?
I’m doing big stuff, and since I’m leaving, I’m doing big stuff on anything I have. For instance, I have these big wood panels, so I thought I might as well just paint them. I also brought one piece that I made in Serbia. I found a roll of digital printing canvas and made a nine-metre long painting. I will sell it by the centimetre at my show. Just roll off a chuck, measure it, cut it and here you go. I’m thinking of having it come down a wall, go across the floor and over a table, so you can see the whole piece.
Do you know what Toska is bringing to the table
We don’t actually know what Toska is going to do yet. It’s actually kind of cool because it’ll be a complete surprise. He'll show up and produce. We both work really, really fast. We’re both really prolific. For us, it’s never a question of 'can I get it done?' but 'how much can I fit?'
Why now for Seen Unseen II? What prompted you to get together with Toska after four years to do another exhibition together?
This one is almost as spontaneous as the first one. There’s never been a whole lot of planning. The timing was just right. This has just culminated from four years of knowing each other and emailing and sending pictures back and forth and having beers.
Other than this exhibition, what projects are you working on?
I have a show coming up in April in Belgrade, which includes screen printing workshops. I’ve also submitted to a street art festival called The Spring Beast in Stockholm and one in Hong Kong. Other than that, I’m really focused on getting my studio set up in Serbia. Lots of people are waiting for me to get that up and running so we can do screen printing projects and wall painting shows as well as music.
Your art has many facets and styles, from your abstract works to your screen printing. How would you describe it collectively?
I’m an abstract reactionist. I don't plan anything. I don't sketch. When I'm drawing, I'm drawing or painting, reacting to what I just did. It's very live, very fast. I can ruin a piece at any time. I just let it go. I don’t erase. It’s like what they say, ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks.’
Last question—why see Seen Unseen II?
I think you should come see the show just for the experience. It’s loose. There’s no preconceived idea or notion. You don’t realise something is there until you have a good look or someone points it out. Years ago, when I was in Poland, in Warsaw, I was wandering around everyday, taking pictures of art, graffiti and buildings. I would come back to the friends I was staying with and show them all the pictures of things that are on their way to work that they've never seen. Now they see them everyday. So it’s a show that’ll give you something to notice that you’ve never noticed before.
Seen Unseen II opens at Jam on Saturday, February 23 at 7pm. The exhibition will be on display until March 17, 2019. For more information about the show, see the official Facebook event here. To see more of Jeff’s work, visit jeffrossart.com.