I try to use colour to describe black bodies. I want to translate all that lust for self-expression into a language that exists outside of words, and instead relates to seeing and feeling with your eyes.
Rachel Jones has developed a deeply personal approach to abstraction, centred around an exploration of her own identity in relation to society’s readings of the black body throughout history. Jones’s paintings are informed by her research into the depiction of black figures in the arts from the eighteenth century to the present – how they are understood and culturally reproduced, and the potential role of these representations in dismantling existing power structures. The figure is notably abstracted in her works, as the artist is interested in ‘using motifs and colour as a way to communicate ideas about the interiority of black bodies and their lived experience’.
In her paintings, Jones grapples with the challenges of finding visual means to convey abstract, existential concepts. In depicting the psychological truths of being and the emotions these engender, she uses abstraction as a way of expressing the intangible. The artist repeats motifs and symbols across her series to create associative, even familial, relationships between them, underscoring their kinship as part of her ongoing investigation of identity. In recent works, Jones uses the abstracted forms of mouths and teeth to indicate a symbolic and literal entry point to the interior and the self. These oral forms emerge and recede from view, suggesting a vivid inner landscape.
Jones focuses on conveying a sense of self as a visual, bodily, sensory and visceral experience. The artist creates a tension or friction in her paintings through the kaleidoscopic palette, boldness of competing forms and interplay of textures. She has described her work as an ‘exegesis of colour’, dominated by fiery reds, fleshy pinks and acid yellows against the counterbalancing coolness of blues and greens. The same critical eye that she turns upon questions of cultural identity and selfhood is applied to the language of painting itself, in works that reconsider both traditional and contemporary approaches to colour and form.
Jones joined the gallery when her work was included in the group exhibition A Focus on Painting (2020), curated by Julia Peyton-Jones. She completed her MA at the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 2019. The same year, her work was exhibited alongside Gillian Ayres and Nao Matsunaga at the New Art Centre, Salisbury, and in a solo show following her residency at The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. She has also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019 and 2018); Fleming Collection, London (2014); and Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (2014). Jones was awarded the André Dunoyer de Segonzac Hon RA Prize in 2019 and the Machin Foundation Painting Prize in 2018, as well as a residency at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in 2016.
Artist in Residence, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX, USA
Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac Hon RA Prize, Royal Academy Schools, London, UK
Machin Painting Prize, The Machin Arts Foundation, Stafford, UK
Artist in Residence, Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, Paget, Bermuda
Selected Artist, RSA: New Contemporaries, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, UK
Hunt Medal for Poetic Creativity, The Steven Campbell Trust, Glasgow, UK
108 Fine Art Purchase Prize, 108 Fine Art, Harrowgate, UK
A Sovereign Mouth, 12.26, Dallas, TX, USA
Red Shaped Mouths, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX, USA
Mad Dogs, Jupiter Woods, London, UK
Grandmama Looking At Him, Marriott's Way, Norfolk, UK
Rachel Jones: The Black In Their Face, The Residence Gallery, London, UK
Sugar Cane Plantation, Folk, London, UK
Noble Eagle/Wiley Fox, 48 Virginia Court, Glasgow, UK
A Focus on Painting, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London, UK
Rachel Jones & Nicholas Pope, The Sunday Painter, London, UK
The Artist Dining Room | Faith Ringgold, Guest Projects, London, UK
Gillian Ayres, Rachel Jones, Nao Matsunaga, New Art Centre, Salisbury, UK
RA Schools Show, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
Winter in America III, Mom’s Favorite Space, Los Angeles, CA, USA
MYCO-TV, 7 Rue de Juvisy, Paris, France
Le Colt est Jeune & Haine [The Colt is Young & Hatred], DOC, Paris, France
After Cesaire/Modern Tropiques, Platform Southwark, London, UK
Premiums, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
Breaking Shells, The Koppel Project, London, UK
georgette, cur. Love Unlimited, Suede Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
Hands To Mouth, FOLD Gallery, London, UK
Addams Outtakes, roaming projects, London, UK
Where’s My Sugar, Ridgeway Road, London, UK
Part 5, lm6a Project Room, London, UK
On Fun and Friction, SWG3, Glasgow, UK
New Scottish Artists, The Fleming Collection, London, UK
RSA: New Contemporaries, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, UK
New at 108, 108 Fine Art, Harrogate, UK
Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2013, Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, UK