Jasper Joffe: on Books and East London Hipsters

Woof Haall, Jasper Joffe Publishing

Image courtesy www.joffebooks.com

What will he do next? The ‘rebel’ artist, novelist, writer, art fair organiser and tutor, Jasper Joffe – labelled the ‘anti-hero of the British art world’ and famous for his enterprising arty ways – has now turned his hand to publishing. We asked him about his new venture and life in trendy East London…

Joffe Books includes parody novels such as ‘Woof Hall’. His aim with his friend Erik Empson is to produce books ‘which they are passionate about and which might otherwise be homeless in the slums created by mainstream commercial publishing’.

So tell us about ‘Joffe Books’ your new publishing house you’ve set up. What is the unique selling point, which titles are you excited about, anything new in the midst?

Joffe Books is an imprint of Not So Noble Books which I set up with my friend Erik Empson. Joffe Books is a chance for me to publish books which I really have a passion for. The age of Kindle means that I can bring great fiction out fast and with everything from cover, to blurb, to social marketing done in-house. I’ve applied some of the knowledge I gained as a successful artist to the publishing world. It’s a really exciting moment to be doing this, as for the first time in history, a writer can send me a book and within a month, if everything goes well, be selling their book and having thousands of people all over the world reading it! We’ve got some great books coming out over christmas.

Are you deviating entirely from Art, just taking a break or will these two interests run parallel. Do have any art works/projects on the go at the moment?

The two interests run parallel, although the publishing has really taken off and absorbed me. I’ve always read, and my novel was published a few years ago by a more traditional publisher, so I’ve had the reading/painting thing going most of my life.

You’ve moved to Shoreditch from Dalston, you seem to be a real Easty. What do you enjoy about the area? Give us some secret places/top tips when visiting the area.

I’ve moved everything to Shoreditch now, which is obviously an intersection between the art, digital, and city worlds. I love East London, and feel somewhat disoriented if I go west or south! When visiting the area go for a drink early week if you want to avoid the massive drunken hordes. And of course two of the best restaurants for Pakistani and Turkish  are Mangal on Arcola Street and Tayyabs in Whitechapel.

Having lived or worked in East London for over a decade you have lived through the dramatic changes to the area. How do you rate the changes, what do you think of what it is like now?

I like the constant flux, Dalston has become bewilderingly super hipster, it’s OK, that’s the joy of living in a city for a long time you have the layers of places you’ve been when they were different, or you felt differently about them.

East London vs Central London galleries – does an area make a difference to the type of art shown in a gallery?

Oops I prefer central London galleries because they have more great art in them because they have more money passing through them. You can cruise round the free commercial galleries in Mayfair and see some genuine masterpieces. I am also a massive fan of the National Gallery on a weekday where you can stroll around in relative peace in beautiful rooms.

Many of your work and projects (from your own version of Tate Modern with Harry Pye in a drycleaners, to where you showed painting in a pound shop in Dalson to your Free Art Fair) involve real places in London. How does London inform/inspire your work?

I love London because just getting on a bus can be inspiring. You see something delightful or surprising all the time. And so I try to do art shows which people will discover in the same way, imagine coming across an oil painting in a pound shop, or the tate in a drycleaners!

Are there any plans for another Free Art Fair?

No! It was a great thing made possible by many generous artist giving away their art for free. But I think there are more exciting new things for me now. But never say never.

If an Alien visited you and demanded to see the finest art in London where would you take him, what particular pieces would you show him?

Good question. Would it be a male alien, and would they have the same gender system? I would take it to see the Wallace Collection, to see Fragonard, Watteau, and Boucher paintings. The National to see some old masters, andthen call in on some exciting contemporary show, but in fact there are better cities for great art such as Madrid and New York, so I’d take it on a day bus to Soho followed by a drunken night bus home for a real feel of the city.

What is your favourite London eatery, drinkery, and dancery?

Coach and Horse pub Greek Street, though they’ve introduced an incongruous vegetarian menu. I like an early evening Martini at a happy hour in B@1. And a bucket of KFC to soak it all up. Dancing is always better for me in a dingy bar rather than a nightclub.

What do you hate about London?

Nothing really. Though I am not too keen on random violence and vomit.

What is your favourite bit of London defacement/street art?

I liked the “OCCUPY” graffiti up high amongst the rooftops near me, but it got painted out.

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