Updated: Apr 18
Jess is about to enter her third and final year studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art at Swansea College of Art, University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. She describes herself in three words: philosopher, observer and feminist and she shares her journey and practice within visual arts.
- How do you think that aspects of your personality and who you are, are depicted in your artwork?
I am an energetic person and I feel that I can transfer that energy into my practice through my passion of producing work continuously. The way I apply paint to canvas, is very performative with a strong presence of movement and energy. I have been described as an animated person so it's great to be able to try and capture that approach within my practice.
The statement by Francis Bacon, "if you did one absolutely perfect image, you would never do anything more" has provided me with inspiration within my practice to just keep going and going even if I fail. I like to be as experimental and as careless as possible because I have a passion when it comes to producing work and I really want that to come across in my work.
- When did you start painting ?
I've always enjoyed drawing since I was very young and only began painting (mainly portraits) in the final year of sixth form college. When I was studying art in school, I remember telling my teacher that I disliked painting, and to think now I can't get enough of it! I also recall when I was studying art in sixth form college my tutor told me 'you're going to be a painter one day'. At the time, I did not think that was possible. I guess it is something that has stuck in my mind since and has pushed me to be where I am now. I was also introduced to the works of Jenny Saville and Orlan which have both been major influences in my work. Only very recently I have fully understood how to paint and its language. This was my exploration withing last year, my second year at university. If I didn't study Fine Art, I would've studied human biology and that fascination of human anatomy has only recently really entered my work.
- How do you describe your style of painting/sculpting and has it changed since your started?
I would describe myself as a figurative painter, but not necessarily of the literal figure. I look at what's under the skin. The colour red, too fuels my practice.
My paintings have been on an evolutionary process and I am confident to say that only now have I found what I consider to be my painterly style. Initially I predominantly painted photorealistic portraits but over the last two years I have developed a more conceptual approach to paintings. I draw upon a variety of sources that can change from day to day such as text, extracts from books to visual imagery. I tend to work more in large scale when given the opportunity as I find it domineering and one's attention is immediately drawn to it. This has taken quite some time to develop through endless loops, experimentation, trials and errors.
I feel that finally I have found my 'style' but who can predict the future? .
- How do you like combining painting and sculpting?
Where sculpture enters my practice, it allows me to observe a gesture three-dimensionally, for example in clay and then that gesture acts as a co-existent counterpoint that informs my two-dimensional painterly gesture. It's a conversation between the two. However, I also adore the physicality and overall visceral sensation of the material of clay which I guess can be informed in my fleshy compositions.
- What do you enjoy the most as an artist and which were the biggest challenges for you?
At the moment I wouldn't describe myself as an artist. It's a title that intimidates me and I'm not sure when I would consider myself as an artist. I feel I need to earn it and will hopefully one day feel that it is right to title myself as one. I consider myself as more of a visual practitioner and I'm still learning.
However, what I do enjoy the most as an 'artist', is just being allowed to contribute towards the visual arts and visual understandings within the world. It's a creative expression whether personal, political, conceptual, historical (past or present). Also, for every exhibition I attend where I have work being exhibited, I must wear something red. It's my tradition.
The biggest challenge for me, has been ignorance towards the arts. Others who aren't involved within the world of modern art can say 'anyone can do that' but there is a lack of general understanding of what modern art and its importance within industry and society.
- Which techniques do you use to bring out this particular quality? Any favourite techniques?
As Jenny Saville once said "red, yellow, blue and white and black are the bare essentials of painting". This statement has always stuck with me and has heavily informed my palette, as well as a learnt tip from one of my university lecturers of using burnt umber and paynes grey instead of black. I avoid using black paint at all costs. Its lethal to work with.
I have used acrylics since I began painting for quite a few years now. Others find that material to be rather challenging to work with yet I say the same about oils. Oil painting is something I feel that as my painting matures, it will be introduced and become a transition into my practice. When it comes to physical painting techniques, I don't really have any I use in particular apart from my love of round head brushes. I allow my pieces to grow organically as I paint and then observe a mark or form that will then suggest the following gesture. No one has physically taught me to apply paint to canvas as no one can physically teach you how to put pen to paper and write- developing your own handwriting. As each person's handwriting is different, each mark using paint is unique. No one can replicate it and some things I do believe in, is that everyone sees the same thing differently and one stroke makes a difference.
- Which is your favourite collection so far?
My favourite collection so far is my most recently exhibited series of work titled 'Carnality'. That for me was a strong learning curve within my practice and only now upon reflection it has allowed me to identify that I was thoroughly exploring the language of my material; how paint can be applied and manipulated to canvas, through its performative movement.
Jess's practice takes the form of painting and sculpture. Both act as co-existent counterpoints and inform the disruptions of marks made between disciplines.
The them of exploiting and exploring the contemporary human condition is core to her practice and her work responds to this. The colour red is also core and fuels her practice due to her continuous fascination with the internal and external as well as the symbolism of the woman. Gender is a notion heavily considered throughout her pracitce as she questions "Why are objects gendered"?
Jess's work demand grotesque landscapes of flesh with the absurdity of disgust that challenges the viewer's perceptin of intimate beauty between the relationship of beauty and disgust.
Her materials disrupt the visual dialect of how the notions of the human form tare meant to be received. She's abandoned that literal figurative portrayal of the human form. The lateral too has been obliterated.
- Which are your aims as an artist?
My immediate aims are to complete my Bachelor's degree and then a Master's Degree. As an 'artist' I would like my work to continue to develop and I will see where that takes me. Art is something I enjoy most definitely. I am utterly passionate about what I do. I tend to follow where my path leads me and lately it has been unexpected such as gaining work experience at the BBC where I had to prepare a piece of modern art for a television programme.
If I had to answer the question of 'why do I do art?' I guess it is because it's something that doesn't bore me, and always gets me up in the morning as I don't know where it will lead me or what will happen next. I'm always thinking, questioning and observing the world around me. I'm observing and not just looking. I'm looking but not just glancing.
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More of Jess's inspiration @paintingsbyparry
Editor: Eftychia Ntzereme
Interviewee & Photography: Jess Parry
Location: Swansea, UK
Date of Publication: 10|9|2019