A new work by Rachel Jones is the latest to join Pallant House Gallery’s collection of Modern British art.
The work has been gifted to Pallant House Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society.
Rachel Jones (b. 1991) was born in Whitechapel London and completed her BA Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art and an MA Fine Art at Royal Academy of Arts. Her work has been exhibited in the UK at Thaddaeus Ropac, The Sunday Painter and institutions such as the Royal Scottish Academy. She was artist in residence at The Chinati Foundation (2019) and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in (2016).
Jones is known for the distinctive way that she blends abstraction and figuration together. Her paintings are extensively informed by her research into the depiction of black figures in the arts from the 18th century to the present day. Her work explores society’s complex readings of the black body – how it is understood, how it is culturally reproduced and how those representations can potentially play a role in dismantling existing power structures.
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.
Jones uses colour, symbols and motifs to create images that explore the black interior, the depth of her own interiority, and how as a black woman, it consists of an autonomous, imaginary and multiplicitous experience.
The work gifted to Pallant House Gallery is A Sliced Tooth (2020), a diptych consisting of two teeth with white bases, over-painted with vibrant reds and muted greys. These layers of oil pastel and oil stick are built up to create a sense of physical and metaphorical depth. The imperfect, raw-edged canvases produce works that almost resemble landscapes.
The body is significant in Jones’ work, in particular the mouth, which she uses to represent blackness in a myriad of historical and socio-political forms. The mouth is an entry point to the body, with essential functions such as breathing and speaking. It can also be modified for superficial reasons: lips can be painted; teeth can be adorned with grills, a removable decorative mouth cover associated with the hip-hop industry and made from gold, silver or diamonds. Teeth are associated with beauty but have also had gruesome meanings in the past, including during the Atlantic slave trade.
The work now acquired by the Gallery, A Sliced Tooth, is also the name of several other works, all of which belong to a series also called A Sliced Tooth. Another work, lick your teeth, they so clutch, from the series of the same name has also been gifted to Towner Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society.
Watch the video below to see Katy Hessel explore a number of works from the series, A Slow Teething, at the exhibition, ‘A Focus On Painting’ at Thaddaeus Ropac, London at the end of 2020.