Interview with sustainable artist, Jeff Scofield
Sep 15, 2016
In this post, Siddharthanni Lobo caught up with Jeff Scofield, an internationally renowned sustainable artist who’s made Dubai his home. Here’s the interview with his views on art and sustainability in the Middle East.
Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Jeff Scofield and I’m a sustainable artist living and working out of Dubai. I run a design firm called Synthesize in D3 and I am also the Director of Gallery 76 at Dubai International Art Center.
Can you tell us what it is to be a sustainable artist and why you chose this area of specialization?
I’ve been focusing on sustainable art for the past 5-6 years. It started as an area of interest and quickly became my focus. It seemed a very relevant topic given the environmental challenges that face the world we live in. I like my art to have a message and this is one that definitely resonates with the public. I work with a variety of materials from used wires to construction materials, recycled paper and wood to old cloth pieces. Basically anything made of natural materials that can be recycled or upcycled.
You’re currently doing an artist-in-residence with thejamjar? Can you tell us more about the project that you’re working on here?
This project is called ‘Upcycling the World Map” and features a world that’s on the verge of pulling itself apart. It is a 2.5 meter x 7.5 meter mural installation that’s built from construction materials and salvaged plywood; the continents are made from recycled cardboard and the oceans from old newspapers. The continents are broken and the different levels of the backdrop make for a jagged and imperfect earth. The aim is to drive home the message that we need to pull together and put our world back in shape.
How long have you been working on this project?
It took me 2 weeks to install the panels just the way I imagined them. And I will be working at thejamjar for the next four weeks to complete it. So a total of six weeks; it will be completed by the end of September. Once I finish the structure I plan to use a variety of recycled and used materials like fabric, paper, buttons, wires, metal grills and other construction materials to fill up the installation. The result will not be pretty but neither is the current state of the earth. The main aim is to create something provocative that raises awareness about sustainability and make some intriguing art at the same time.
You’ve lived in Dubai since 2002. How has the art and design scene evolved in the UAE and the region in general during this time?
Art and design have come a long way since my first year here. In the early 2000’s the art scene was rather modest. And as the boom years rolled on, art was generally more opulent and expensive. There was a lot of money and drama associated with it. The recession changed that. A lot of design houses were forced to close and in a process of natural selection, only the best artists stayed and survived. In general, the art scene is now definitely in revival mode. There’s a lot of government support through initiatives like D3 and the new Opera House in Dubai, as well as the Guggenheim and Louvre in Abu Dhabi. In general, there’s an overall rise in standards and the art scene is maturing in the country.
What are some of the current art trends that you see in the UAE?
Art is becoming more accessible and affordable, there’s higher quality of work being produced in the region, Middle Eastern artists are playing a more prominent role in the art scene and buyers are becoming more demanding and sophisticated. All signs of a maturing art market.
Jeff is the artist-in-residence at thejamjar all September. He will be presenting an illustrated talk about Sustainability in Art on September 21, and conducting a workshop on sustainable art at thejamjar on September 24. You can find out more about it here.