Interview with Rachel Jones "明亮的東西不一定是快樂的"。
Interview by Karma Cheung
Is a broken tooth painful?
The theme of British artist Rachel Jones's first solo exhibition in China is "shorn root", which comes from a story about fracture. "The title of the exhibition is 'a shorn root' because a good friend of mine lost a tooth. In the process of creation, I have been thinking about cutting something off, or using what it means to be pulled from its original context in a traumatic or serious way. Beyond that, the theme involves exploring a destructive behavior that can generate infinite possibilities."
Colors of "contradiction"
Rachel's work is rich in color, and at the same time the artist describes these colors as "contradictory". "Colors have strong cultural associations with certain moods, emotions or states of being. I am fascinated by the subtle contradictions underlying my palette. They may create feelings beyond what we usually associate with specific hues. For example, something bright is not necessarily happy. Combining certain colors together can be an act of confrontation, calming or alluring. I wanted to explore the many subtle ways that color can be used to communicate, and express that through small and large works.”
Complexities of identity
"Abstraction allows me to explore identity in an experiential way, using color, texture, and line to stimulate the physical and psychological responses of the viewer." The outline shape of the tooth appears repeatedly in the painting, as if it is a symbolic shorthand for personal experience, just like the artist. Based on her own experience of life as a Black artist, the paintings break away from direct and concrete expressions, and at the same time explore the complexities of identity.
Transforming figurative objects into abstract works, Rachel shares that her inspiration comes from different ranges. "I've always been drawn to the work of different painters, including Gillian Ayres, SOiL Thornton, Lynette Yiadom Boakye, Aubrey Williams, Bill Traylor and Martha Jungwirth, but I've been exploring broader artistic practices - sculpture, performance, music. What I read matters too, and I admire writers like Toni Morrison, Kevin Quashie, Claudia Rankine, and Gwendolyn Brooks for their use of language to achieve critical and poetic expression that reconfigures our common understanding of the black lived experience. Besides art, gardening, nature, community and family are also very formative.”
This is the first time a solo exhibition of the artist's work has been held in China. Previously, Rachel Jones has exhibited works in art museums including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and the Tate Gallery in London.
Rachel feels that the scale of the exhibition hall at the Long Museum is much larger than any exhibition hall he has worked on before, and its presentation method also extends the concept of contrast explored by the work itself.
"Some of the small-scale works and the expansiveness of the surrounding space are intended to draw attention to each other as opposite poles, while also taking into account our own place in this space. Some of the works in the exhibition have uneven edges which can be placed directly on the concrete wall, means there is a direct contrast between the brightness and special texture of the oil sticks and crayons I use, as well as the color and flatness of the stone on the wall.”
Large-scale paintings and small-scale works are displayed side by side. The bright colors contrast sharply with the gray concrete walls of the Long Museum, allowing visitors to communicate with the works from their own perspectives in the spacious exhibition hall of the Long Museum. "There aren't many hanging pieces so each piece is able to relate to the specific space it's hung in, and there are always paintings in your peripheral view to encourage the viewer to think about possible relationships between the pieces when considered together."
Regarding curatorial considerations, Rachel shared: "For any exhibition, I will consider the experience of the works in the space and their specific qualities. Every space has its own needs. For the Long Museum, the huge exhibition hall volume, curved walls, large areas of glass, and especially concrete surfaces are all elements that present practical challenges. For example, how do you hang on concrete, especially when I work on unstretched canvases, with these tactile surfaces and their in contrast to the surface of the wall on which it is placed.”
Finally, when asked what experiences and gains visitors would like to have in the exhibition, Rachel said: "I hope to convey what is important to me through my works, but in the end, it is the audience themselves who control everyone's experience of visiting the exhibition. Therefore, I hope that everyone will get completely different feelings and thoughts because of their sensory encounters with the paintings."
展覽日期：2023年3月18日 – 5月28日