I’ve known the New York-based artist Jordan Awan for quite a long time now. Since he was in high school in fact. So I have had the privilege of watching his art truly evolve into something amazing. He’s just a great guy and an incredible artist with a profoundly unique voice that is entirely his own. His recent solo show at PEP in Brooklyn was hands down, in my opinion, one of the best shows I have seen this year. I spoke to him recently: Where did you go to school? ‘I went to school at Pratt Institute in the Communications Design department. I majored in illustration’.
What led you to Illustration? ‘My older brother Jashar, who is an incredibly talented illustrator, went to Pratt for illustration. When I was looking at colleges, Jashar spoke very highly of Pratt’s illustration department. The fact that he was so excited about the department convinced me that it was the right place for me. The full disclosure would be that, for myself, I view illustration as a career and not a vocation. Illustration is just a very specific outlet of image-making that I do for practical reasons. I am much more interested in making work without the typical practical reasons, but for the one paramount practical reason: that if I don’t make it, I’ll burst’.
Who and what are your influences?
‘Some painters that always inspire me are Henri Rousseau, Peter Saul, Philip Guston, Jan Van Eyck, Max Ernst, Balthus, Ernst Fuchs, and Hans Memling. In addition to painters, I am equally influenced by filmmakers. Jodorowsky in particular has had a very profound affect on me. There is also Kubrick, Lynch, Bunuel, Bergman, Tarkovsky, and Herzog. I am in many ways more influenced by reading than by visual art. The two authors I read constantly are Nietzsche and William Blake. They are an endless wellspring of inspiration for me. Other authors who have had a big influence on me are Borges, Kafka, Kierkegaard, Calvino, and Heraclitus. Kenneth Smith is a philosopher who I have had the incredible good fortune to meet. His ideas are undeniably powerful and have had a tremendous influence over me and as a direct result, my work. My once-professor and now-friend, Joshua Ray Stephens has also had a big influence on me creatively: he taught me that no powerful work can be made without strict discipline and sincere conviction. He never really said those words to me, it was more his example. Of course, my friend and wife Morgan Elliott has had an incalculable influence on both my work and me. But that goes without saying!’