FAQ’s or An interview with Myself
Background-Achievements (Short Bio)
The work of Gabrielle Jones has been described by Charles Blackman, Artist as
“…full of shining light, radiant… [she] lets the inner things – her soul – come into her paintings [and] evokes feelings from the viewer”.
Gabrielle graduated from National Art School; has held 17 solo shows in three states & including Goulburn Regional Gallery – her next show will be at gallery Grefiti and at the museum La Rocca in Umbertide, Italy. Gabrielle has been appointed “Artist in Residence” at Bundanon; in Tahiti and Bora Bora; Valparaiso, Spain; at Artscape Toronto, Canada; and at Tweed Regional Gallery. She has been appointed drawing instructor 2012 Sydney Biennale events; curated two exhibitions at Coorah Contemporary Gallery, Blue Mountains Grammar School; won or been highly commended in a number of prizes including the William Fletcher Trust Grant; included as a finalist Fleurieu Biennale, Portia Geach, Mosman, Norville, Muswellbrook, Calleen, St George, Duke Gold Coast; Borough of Queenscliff 150th Anniversary; Korea Australia Art Foundation and Fishers Ghost Art Awards (Three years in a row). Her work has been selected in curated shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, New York and Korea; and acquired by Muswellbrook Regional Gallery; included in public and private collections in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, New York, Canada, Italy and London
How Long have you been painting?
Well, it’s that old thing – all my life! Although I did start out in drawing, but I had painted my first realistic horse at 12 and a portrait from a photograph in tonal paint, which I worked out was the best way ( blue if I remember properly) by the time I was 14. I was in the NSW high schools exhibition for best of HSC in Year 12 and continued part time, through university studies and afterwards, with gaps of about 6-8 months when I had children (two).
How do you describe your work to others?
I am an abstract, expressive painter of (usually) large format canvases. I track movement in the environments I paint -which includes my physical environment as well as that of my mind (where my reality is always happening anyway!) and eye movement– the energy, reactions, thinking, feelings, connections to world events etc. I try to notice my thoughts and responses to stimulus (Be mindful); and my bodily movement through spaces and paint that. That is, I paint how it is to be in the 21st Century, “First World” from one artist’s perspective. Political events, pop culture, art history, music and rhythm, my home and my physicality all come into this and play a part informing the marks, colours and forms I paint.
Abstraction is important for me, because I’m interested in materialising the elements associated with natural phenomena – I’m not trying to represent something clear-cut and concrete that has a simple meaning or can be represented in a straightforward manner. Instead, I’m trying to visualize something that is more like a diffuse energy or a bodily response. Abstraction allows me to invite viewers to share the experience, to bring to it their own memories, and to develop their own relationships with the artwork. Music is also important to me and is necessary for me to paint.
My most successful paintings capture the synergy of movement, musicality and process.
Do you have a preferred medium?
Oil paint is my preferred medium. Increasingly, I paint with the newer Acrylics that stay open and allow time to remove, rub, scrape, layer etc, but they rarely take over the space, radiate from their frames, as oil does, so I often over-paint with oil. Oil paint also allows more transparency and luminosity of colour. Besides, I like the slippery, slidey feeling of it.
How do you begin new work?
I approach it in a stalking manner! I usually have a library of images that I like, often gleaned from the internet or other artists work (both contemporary and historical) and, for a new body of work, I study this until I have an overwhelming urge to get painting. I truthfully often don’t have anything in mind to paint, just, perhaps, some colours or a need to use bigger brushes or challenge myself in some way.
So most paintings start from brush marks. Then one work begets another – perhaps an interesting departure needs more examination or a problem was raised that I would like to solve in another way, and then I’m off! It is very physical, quick work, all to the accompaniment of music. (Sometime s the music influences the painting).
Do you tend to work in a series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
I always start a few paintings at a time, but usually, by the end of that first day, one painting is calling me to -or demanding- that I concentrate on it. Then I resolve that one and begin, usually the next day, on the next painting calling loudest. I may then revisit earlier works in a major way, having learned more from the painting at hand, or tweak them throughout the period of painting that body of work.
I am trying for the edges of one body of work to move more smoothly to the next, and it seems to be happening. I see an internal logic to bodies of work that, to the “outsider” may appear quite different. I’ve been painting long enough now for the different series to be circling back on themselves, revisiting earlier concerns and developing and progressing them.
What attracts you to your subjects?
It’s usually a composite of what’s bubbling away mentally or an event, a situation etc that is huge enough to stop me in my tracks! Sometimes, it’s the cumulative result of time spent thinking about something that just comes out in the work (like a Netflix series!). No knowing what I am going to paint and what I am going to end up with, is the thing that keeps me painting. I am constantly surprised by what happened when you get out of your own way (or your left brain).
What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
I try to avoid overthinking my process too much. The act of painting itself is my fuel and the way I find my subjects. Allowing thoughts to bubble away and putting them down, almost as they occur. Working quickly and spontaneously boosts my energy levels; I am invigorated both physically and creatively by the sense of possibility ahead.
How Long does it take to make a painting?
The best paintings usually take the shortest time. I often finish a large painting in one sitting of about 8 hours, after which I am totally exhausted. But this often happens after a few false starts and, it has to be said, a break from the studio of a couple of days (eg a weekend). I need lots of energy to concentrate and battle with the canvas. When this happens, I am on a high for days afterwards, but also, I am totally, physically shattered and can rarely do anything useful in the studio for the next few days. Mostly these paintings need a little tweaking which can happen after looking at them for a few days. Some smaller paintings can take less, and some are more contemplative and take longer. All are evidence of the ebbs and flows, the need for action and quiet times that are part of my artistic personality.
What do you use as reference material?
Well, as I said, what’s going on in the world informs my work, so, at the beginning of a body of work (or to shake one up) I look at images of my best previous work or from other artists as well as taking a general surf through the internet, clearing news items, emails and social media before I begin. I often start by drawing, just to extend the mark-making and develop different, more immediate responses to what I’m thinking about or have seen.
These things meld together and feed my brain, then I get out of the way and kind of record responses and part images that are then layered (as these sources are), recording the mental digestive process in paint. I like my work to show the layers of where I’ve been and the thoughts and process of how I got there – the experimentation and introspection built into the composition.
I also use sections of my older paintings as structure or a jumping off/starting point, which are then abandoned to the process of painting and being in the zone over time, so they take on a new life. This allows a consistency between bodies of work to develop, though at least one painting in the next series will be a departure and so, lead to the next body of work (which still has some continuation in style or theme).
Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
I tend to work intuitively and let meaning emerge in the making. There is a primal element to the way I combine movement, materiality, colour and form to elicit a unique response to life. I give myself over to the process and trust that the “a-ha” moment will occur, which it always does eventually.
I think of meaning as surfacing during the dialogue between the artwork and myself during the making process. Although there might be a conscious starting point, the work may end up in quite a different place to where it began. In a way, this is why I make. If I knew at the outset what I knew at the conclusion, the artwork itself would almost be redundant. It is the not knowing where the work will end that compels me to take the journey. For this reason, I like to let the work unravel and realise itself, rather than following a map to a pre-planned destination.
What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Well, I’m a natural “Red” person, but I try to push colours in every which way. I am recently discovering the joys of black mixed with almost any other colour.
Where do you create?
I often sketch in the landscape (or wherever I am and wanting to relax) but my real creations are in a large, hired, separate studio space (Currently in Katoomba). I have worked on and off from home, but really like working where I can get art supplies, have a coffee or meet someone afterwards and feel like I am part of the world. Otherwise, I tend to lock myself in the studio and become obsessed.
Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I walk in, put my keys on the microwave so I can find them when I want to leave and my head is in the clouds, put food in the fridge so I wont starve, then turn on my music. It seems to be a short cut to getting in the zone.
What’s your favourite music to work to?
All my music is now “Easy Listening!”. I have a huge number of play lists that include jazz greats, modern and historical composers, electronica, folk, blues, Café Del Mar, Bjork, Radiohead, Eddie Vedder etc etc. but only the smooth stuff so I don’t get annoyed when painting.
Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Now I do! The best ones come to me while I’m painting, like remembering the title of a well loved book – kind of like recognising what I am painting. But I admit, I also keep a list of great titles that come to me out of the blue and, when stuck, check this to see what suits the painting.
What’s your favourite part of creating?
Not knowing what the end will look like. This seems to give me the energy to keep going. Also, being “in the zone”, where time stops and there is just the canvas, the music and the act of painting.
What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Forget the “Shoulds” – all those rules or beliefs of what a painting should look like or be. Just paint and paint and the rest will come. Also, work hard – but don’t forget to play. It’s this last thing that has given me the breakthrough to more creative, unique work that is a joy to create.
What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
Being taken on by a gallery straight from Art School and, of course, my first solo exhibition 6 months later. My first exhibition with a Regional Gallery (Goulburn) and soon, my first exhibition in Europe. Others would include the various residencies, all of which progressed my work in different ways. The “Ah Ha!” moment was giving up on the art world and painting for myself – which, conversely, has lead to more attention from the art world.
How do you alleviate the down times?
During the GFC, it was relentlessly difficult to get work shown and so, have any positive feedback. But I realised that to really did paint because it was the only thing I wanted to do and moreover, I needed to do it. So focusing on the work and not the result has helped me through down times. And truthfully, unless I am travelling or have other important commitments, I am painting regardless of scheduled shows. Lately, these have also been consistent, for which I am truly grateful (so not too many downtimes!). As for getting my mood up – music always helps as does the gym and exercise.
What is the most memorable exhibition you have seen and why?
Hmmm it’s like tying to choose between children! But I think my first visit to MOMA, New York when I walked in to a room and there was a huge de-Kooning (whose work I adore) on the wall. I thought I would save that for last like a desert, and turned my back to it, when I saw an enormous David Park Figurative painting. As I was enveloped in it and my eyes travelled along the ground of the canvas, I began to cry with pure joy. I’ll never forget that. And the other most surprising was the National Gallery’s exhibition of Sean Scully, whose work I had not be a fan of but I was truly blown away.
If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
Any “multi media” artist – how do you get the time to make art in all those various mediums? I work incredibly hard at painting, and I’m pretty fast , and I still can’t tear myself away to other mediums which do, it must be said, call from time to time (other than drawing).
What does the future hold for you?
Other than the exhibition in Italy, which is all consuming at the moment, I am hoping to develop a career on two sides of the world, and hence, spend 6 months of the year in Europe (Italy, Sicily or France) and 6 months here. I have still to se so many museums and I’d love the luxury of studying fabulous paintings multiple times and at leisure. I also hope to gain representation in a great Australian Gallery.