Frame 61

Jessica Wilson

Frame 61
Jessica Wilson

Background/education: At school I was always fascinated by painting. Every break time you could find me in the art department, playing with paint. I went to quite an academic school, where the arts weren’t greatly encouraged so studying art at university didn’t occur to me. When I left school at 18 I went to university to study architectural engineering, I very quickly realized this wasn’t the direction I wanted my life to go in so I dropped out and ran away to the mountains for a couple of years. After a lot of snow, skiing and partying I came back home, not knowing what to do with myself.

My Mum suggested I enrol onto the art foundation course at our local college. I hesitantly did so. It was here I started painting again. From there I went on to complete a BA at University College Falmouth, and then went on to become part of the first year of Turps Banana Painting Programme, an experimental art school in London, run by Marcus Harvey and Peter Ashton Jones. This year at Turps was transformational to my practice. I became a stronger painter and now have a firm network of artists around me which has been invaluable. 

Abstract shapes, starting point: I begin by making a series of line drawings. These drawings are an essence of something half remembered, a moment caught, an approximation. The inspiration is visual and generated from the world around me: from the negative space between two objects or the texture of a fabric to patterns in weather and the movement of traffic. I constantly look back over the drawings, mentally dissecting, reworking and inventing. The original memory becoming ever more faded and blurred until the drawings take on a life of their own.

From these line drawings I begin to think about other formal aspects – colour, tone and surface. I start to paint in my head, playing out different scenarios, different moves. It feels like a game but I am unsure of the rules. When a particular arrangement grabs me I spring into action, eager to get paint on the surface before I forget my intentions. Some works are completed quickly – others take more time, needing a further period of looking, thinking and drawing. The paint often surprises me and the tactics need to be altered.

Visual language: My practice centres around visual language. In the studio I work on many pieces at once and so my studio wall is always full of paintings. The works are constantly shifted around, being placed and reordered. I see this wall as an evolving story, a set of possibilities. My imagination bounces from one work to the next. The works are never viewed singularly; together they form an investigation into visual language and are an attempt at conversation. 

Studio/routine: Right now I’m studying a masters at Glasgow School of Art and feel very lucky to be able to be in the studio full time. My studio space is bright and sunny with big windows. I like to get into the studio early, so I have a couple of hours to work in peace whilst no one else is around. When I first get in, I make a cup of tea and spend the first hour just looking at everything in my space. I think I probably spend about 80 percent of my time just staring at the walls. 

The viewer: For me painting and drawing is about communicating things I don’t have the words for. I don’t have words for how I want the viewer to feel, I just want them to take the time to look, really look. 

Influences: My influences change weekly but right now I’ve been obsessing over Mary Heilmann, I can’t wait to see her show which opens at Whitechapel in June.

Titles: At the moment most of my work is untitled. Visual language is my strength and I often struggle to find the right words so titling is something I find hard. However, referring to a specific piece when everything is untitled gets a bit tricky. So I’ve recently been thinking about ways to classify works, not titles as such but maybe more of a coding system… this area is definitely still a work in progress.

Future/shows: I have some work in a group show in Paris at Sobering Gallery with a really exciting group of artists which opens in June. I’ve also just been asked to take part in an exhibition in Helsinki in July – a great excuse for a trip to Finland! And of course my masters degree show which will take place in Glasgow in September. 

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16