Jeff McCann at Imperial UP Gallery – Part 1

We talk Art with Designer, Artist & Creative Jeff McCann


Hello, lovers, it’s your boy Julian here from the Imperial Hotel Erskineville. This week we are celebrating all things all things ART in our UP Gallery’s first opening for the New Year.

We grabbed Jeff in amongst his busy day and chatted to him about his work, beginnings and what he is doing with ‘Come Play’ his latest exhibition at the Imperial Up Gallery. Read on below for more! If you want to see his new exhibition book a table in Imperial UP now!

Interviewer = Julian Kenworthy
Speaker = Jeff McCann
Images = taken from Jeff McCann’s Instagram


Portrait of Artists Jeff McCann in front of Orange Wall

What is your art?

I see my work as a hybrid between art, design, craft and fashion. The way that I see my work is that I never want my work to be passive. Whether its an artwork or something I am wearing – like a fashion piece, or jewellery.

Anything I make I almost want it to be art, because whilst it’s something I have drawn or made with my hands – at the same time, I want it to be something more than just to that, a drawing or pattern. I want people to be able to wear it or use it, or it serves more than just an aesthetic purpose.

By making it through that utilitarian perspective it just makes whatever I am designing or creating or thinking about a more fluid, or loose object. I hate to think my of even my clothes as having titles.

I won’t even say ‘this is a t-shirt’. Because I like that if someone wants to wear it as a shawl or a turban they can. I want to keep what I make as open to interpretation and play as possible.

That’s where the idea of Play in this exhibition comes in, doesn’t it?

Exactly. there is no one clear answer of what its supposed to be. I don’t want to overload my audience with an instruction. I want the audience to take the tools I am making and then complete it themselves.

Exactly it’s more than the item that is physically there. It’s the surface qualities and the plasticity of the idea and design. They are also the ideas behind your practice?

“So much of what I have had to learn in my practice is accepting the fact that not everyone is going to understand my ideology.  Or the way I go about my practice.”

Why Cardboard?

When I started using cardboard it really freed me up to just play and be less precious about my work. I used to be quite tightly wound and I wanted to achieve this amazingly perfect vision in my head, which I could never create in real life because it was impossible. So I would get shitty.

But when I started to work with cardboard, that loosened my practice up and allowed me to play a whole lot more. That even the materials I use are really easy to get.

The tools I use are really simple like scissors, paper, textas – paintbrush. There’s no big crazy tools or equipment that I need. It’s all very low-fi which allows me to keep on going and going and going and because the approach and materials are lo-fi it’s able to be really diverse.

So I put a lot of value that my work and designs are not all in the materials, that my thoughts and the process and the time making the work is part of a broader conceptual practice. When you step back and analyse all those elements it becomes quite conceptual.

Collage of images, a model wearing a tasseled coat, leaf shaped earrings made from cardboard, a kinetic art installation

So let’s come back to this Thursday what’s the plan? You’re calling this exhibition ‘Come Play’ which to me says, that what we are designing, playing making?

At the top of my mind when I am making work – is to make a piece that makes people smile. The Imperial Space itself for me is one that is playful and has playful memories. To me, it’s not just a restaurant in a pub, it’s a playful place that you go to have fun. You can hang out with friends and chill out.

So whether it’s having selfies in the mirror works in the show. Or doing the colouring in, or taking photos under the bunting – it’s all part of that desire to make people smile. To share and enjoy that space together.

That bunting is up and in our UP bar and floor space and it’s absolutely glorious if you have seen it. Every time I go to the UP outside space its blowing and colourful. It makes me smile so much. it reminds me of a Nikki Savvas work.

White wall hallway with a mounted art installation, a multi coloured wheel made from layers of painted cardboard

Book a table at Imperial UP and see Jeff McCann’s new exhibition ‘Come Play’ Now

I can push my work into different worlds like fashion and art because what I’m doing I haven’t necessarily seen before so I have no clear, reference point.

It’s liberating because I feel I don’t have to worry about what other people are doing. I can just do what I want to do, and let whatever I am making just be. That allows it to move faster and freely because I don’t have to get stuck in my head thinking about what other people are doing


Jeff McCann thank you so much for being a part of The UP gallery and we look forward to seeing you on Thursday for the Opening!

Thanks, Jules see you then!


Lovers book a table under the bunting and enjoy one of our gorgeous pizzas and cocktails and have a look at ‘Come Play’  

and if you liked Jeff see his work on his Instagram or his website