As the world reawakens; we’re tentatively working out what the ‘new normal’ means for our daily lives and experiencing the joy of seeing friends and family again. To mark this unique time, here at the Affordable Art Fair, we’ve decided to explore the theme of human connection, reaching out to some of our talented roster of artists whose work delves into the myriad facets of our daily experiences.
Introducing artist, Jess Quinn, represented by Kittoe Contemporary Limited whose innate creativity was clear from an early age. Representing strong women, who she positions within fairy-tale landscapes and spaces, tinged with just a little darkness; we are huge fans of her intriguing paintings. Read on to find out more…
MEET THE ARTIST, JESS QUINN
Hi Jess, we love the narrative, vibrant and intense nature of your work – what inspires you?
I think the intensity in my work is a direct reflection of how it is produced around the edges of a crowded day job and family life, the process is, by necessity, achieved through very intense and condensed periods of painting. I work in isolation and there is a lot of uncertainty and some guilt involved in reconciling my roles as a Mother and Artist.
The vibrant colours are in part a sort of burst of joy and optimism, a small momentary escape from reality. Colour also has an intrinsic noise that will not be muted, it allows me to dance on the edge of acknowledgement that colour, pattern and narrative are often considered less sophisticated, feminine or child-like, colour can therefore be disruptive even political.
The smaller scale of most recent work and the materials used, largely paper and gouache with some acrylic on canvas, are a direct result of my circumstances; I have limited resources and a kitchen table to work on. Initially this worried me, the anxiety of being trapped in a domestic space but I realised that for now the work was developing a particular voice and strength because of these restrictions.
We understand that your upbringing was immensely creative, because of this, do you think your own practice has become your natural way of connecting with others?
I was very lucky to have a creative upbringing; I only ever wanted to draw and live in my imagination as a child, but this got me into trouble at school which probably made me retreat into my Art early on. I was outwardly a very shy child but with a strong internal creative confidence.
Who do the women in your paintings represent?
The women in my paintings are myself, my mother, my daughters, my friends, both real and imagined from the present and the past. I don’t paint portraits they are more memories or ideas of a person, I might paint myself as a young woman in conversation with my adult daughter or, for example, just after leaving Art college I painted myself in conversation with Dora Maar, I imagined us talking about our art. I think my experiences reflect those of many women; motherhood, the constraints of the domestic space, loss of identity, finding a true self amongst a myriad of societies constructed female identities and more.
Some of the expressions, postures and settings of your protagonists have an unsettling nature; is that intentional?
There is often an unsettling element to my work, an underlying darkness, this is in contrast to the bright colours and patterns as you can’t have light without dark.
The characters in the work are often representations of stages in a woman’s life, youth, motherhood, middle age. Often reflecting on the objectification of women and their portrayal throughout the history of Art. My womens’ rejection of these stereotypes are often expressed in their faces and bodies, they are awkwardly challenging their roles in Art and life. I want them to be strong and fighting for change.
I also like contradictions and ambiguity in my work, despite the apparent narrative, I don’t plan a work to have a specific meaning and I think there needs to be opportunity for the viewer to create their own narrative and sometimes just the interaction of colour, shape and texture are enough.
Can you talk us through how you produce one of your works?
I often work in a continuous flow, by that I mean working from one painting to the next, sometimes up to 7 or 10 pieces. I think I carry ideas around with me until I’m ready to start work, occasionally I will do rough sketches but mostly I don’t like to plan, as soon as that happens, I have lost the true intention of the work. I like to discover through the creative process and change course if needed. I have a very intuitive response to colour and ideas and although my work may appear quite structured and linear in narrative I don’t actually work like that, I’m more of a jump in and see what happens person; take risks, make mistakes, discover and do better!
What would you say are the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of being an artist today?
It is difficult to talk about the rewarding aspects of Art without falling into clichés, personally it gives me immense strength whilst also causing a lot of pain, you sacrifice a lot, but I could not survive without it. The most challenging aspect is trying to build your practice around work and family, not having the space or finances to develop your work, there are also challenges around age and funding and of course the always present guilt of the working mum. Artists are often presented as needing to be entirely selfish if they are to succeed, I am trying to find ways to balance this need for complete uninterrupted focus as an Artist with a full-time day job and full-time parenting, but the cost is high. My greatest joy in life is looking at and experiencing Art.
How has the recent global pandemic influenced your practice?
I contracted COVID-19 in early March and am still fighting my way back to health, so the pandemic has had a profound effect on me personally. I have been too ill to paint so I will only be able to gain some perspective on this terrifying ordeal once I am well again, but I sincerely hope it will be the catalyst for meaningful change in the way we treat each other and our fragile ecosystem.
We hope this interview has left you with one of Jess’ works firmly placed in your wish-list – we know she is in ours! To browse the full range of Jess’ paintings on our online marketplace, simply follow the link below.
Jess Quinn, In To The Woods, 2018, Gouache, £450, Kittoe Contemporary Limited.
Featured art from first to last:
Profile image of Jess Quinn
Jess Quinn, Distant Dreams, 2019, Gouache, £800, Kittoe Contemporary Limited.
Image of Jess Quinn in a gallery admiring works.
Jess Quinn in her art school studio.
Jess Quinn studio at home.
Jess Quinn, Every Woman is An Island, 2019, Gouache, £500, Kittoe Contemporary Limited.
Jess Quinn work in progress at her home studio.
Jess Quinn work in progress at her home studio.