Night Vision: in conversation with Jake Fried

December 15, 2022
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Mimi Nguyen: Your films have been exhibited at the Tate Modern and Sundance Film Festival, and numerous art galleries around the world. What does it mean to you to be an artist, and how do you approach your art and creativity in your professional practice?

Jake Fried: I think of my experimental animations as moving paintings, they are often viewed in museum, gallery or theater settings, but largely live online as works of art. My approach to art-making and creativity revolves around my daily process of reworking the same image over and over, for up to a year, to create one of my pieces. I do not use formal storyboards, but let the work find itself through the process of making, day after day. Beyond making my work, being an artist involves managing exhibitions, teaching as a professor, and engaging with collectors, fans, and other artists.

Jake Fried, Mind Frame, 2016. Shown at Edge of Frame: Journeys into Experimental Animation, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK in 2016. Video courtesy of the artist.

Mimi Nguyen: You began your career as a painter. How had your interest in animation developed over time?

Jake Fried: I had reached a point in my painting practice, where I was consistently layering, modifying and reworking my paintings for months, a never ending search with no desire to “finish the image”.  I realized what truly interested me was the way the images metamorphosed in the course of making a painting, and I began to focus on this image transformation as the central focus of my work.

Mimi Nguyen: I’m a big fan of stop motion animations, seeing in your works references or being taken back to Georges Méliès. Can you tell us more about your process of layering and modifying images, and how it allows you to create dynamic, evolving pieces that capture the passage of time?

Jake Fried: I work on just one drawing that I scan consecutively as I rework the image with ink, white-out, and sometimes collage, paint, coffee, and collage. I average about 1500 frames per film (1 minute), and I can compose up to 10 frames a day. After all the frames have been scanned into Photoshop, I compile them at 24-30 frames per second. Finally, I compose sound design for the piece.

Jake Fried, Night Vision, 2015. Video courtesy of the artist.

Mimi Nguyen: Night Vision is a product of hundreds of hours of meticulous, nose-to-paper work with ink. The result is this hallucinatory series with mind-bending and uniquely hand-crafted frames. For Verse’s launch exhibition this year, Noah Davis had presented one of the works from your private collection. Can you elaborate on the self-portrait aspect of Night Vision, and how it reflects your own personal experiences and emotions as an artist?

Jake Fried: The nature of my process - reworking and building on the same image day over day, with no plan or going backwards - makes my work a form of daily journaling. Arrived at slowly, the work reflects my personal journey over a year. All of my work is essentially a self-portrait, a long-form stream-of-consciousness.

Night Vision #85 by Jake Fried | Verse

Mimi Nguyen: You’re a lecturer in the Department of Animation at Massachusetts College of Art & Design. How do you mentor your students and what is your recommendation for them as soon-to-be artists?

Jake Fried: Every artist is different, so there is not one approach. My general mission is to motivate and inspire my students to become better people, artists, and animators. I want to be a person in their life that pushes them to think deeper and challenges them to try harder. All my advice comes down to: work really hard to find your true voice and expression as an artist, take risks, and experiment. Be authentic and kind. Make an effort to network with like-minded people.

See the works of Jake Fried on Verse's exhibition "Magical Realism: Part II" on Tuesday 20 December at 6:00PM BST | 1:00PM ET

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