• Jessica James

A very open piece about my life right now


Dots have been this consistent theme in my life. A place of rest and assurance. It always seemed like a pursuit worth my time and energy. Though economically illogical, I am painfully self-aware. The process and outcomes are never displeasing to me. The patience it involves and the slow creeping across great expanses of space. Yes. Worth enjoying and engaging with. I’ve been playing with pure abstraction lately. But the heart never quite feels content with pure abstraction and yet how would the figures be brought in?

Like every young Australian artist, my education has been built on the foundations of Ben Quilty and Del Kathryn Barton. Ben Quilty is beginning to show me the possibility of figuratism as movement and shape. Not always a known body. Body as flow. My daily thoughts -How will they be integrated and understood? How will they come through and the sense of flesh and movement seems more important than the figures anatomical accuracy themselves? I am reaching towards the feeling of flesh and movement surrounded by an abstract unseen world and that could explain my entire practice…

I instantly resonated with DKB and she was the first artist to show me the possibility of integrating dot art with a European perspective. I’ve always felt more self-conscious about the pure abstract mark making and the linkage with Indigenous art. A practice and culture I have the upmost respect and idealisation of, that I would never compromise a misinterpretation of my work for an attempt to stand on land not mine. I would sacrifice my practice if the possibility of jeopardising that respect was at risk. Mostly the practice has been asking me to get really clear as to what my purpose here is. What am I trying to say? How and why is it important and different? What legs am I standing on?

My biggest struggle has been with the gatekeeper of my own mind and allowing the practice to come through. Kind of like holding onto your pee long after you need to go. The floodgates will burst eventually and for a few moments the resistance makes you feel falsely powerful. Like you can blind yourself to a truth and maybe you will just adapt and become an accountant or something. I think you know better than I do, that such a possibility is far from likely. Because I’ve had the experience of living freely focused on my art without the thought of financials. In that place I was struck with guilt of privilege. I had not earned this rite of passage to such freedom. I wasn’t fitting into this comfortable known artist stereotype. It was paralysing.

But now, I don’t have enough money to buy materials. So we go back into the tightly woven structure of economic society and the familiar crushing pain of fighting against your heart returns. It doesn’t feel light or easy. But it is reigniting community and connection socially. I didn’t build up my foundations first before jumping into a full-time practice… I thought I needed to build solo. I realise now the importance of being vulnerable to taking uncomfortable steps. But I also consciously made choices not to structure my work as a business-model. I might need to one day. But I pray that one day it may be big enough to share with a team. To have an assistant to answer emails and market to people and places. Maybe one day. But I couldn’t be in a studio all day by myself for days on end and I know that now.

I felt my purpose was- and still is -to explore our connection with ourselves and nature and the world we cannot see. Inherently abstract because it’s a world without the physical. It exists in the felt. In the knowingness and that’s a wild place to be. There isn’t structure, rules or form there. It just ebbs and flows endlessly. I know I feel better living in that place, my soul feels at rest and everything feels calm and okay.

We are all human. Despite a longingness to be above the scientific laws of nature and become one with the source of all creation. That is death, and I am still here. We are still here. So while these precious moments are graciously bestowed upon us, we keep moving and trying. I feel a knot in my throat at the moment. Sometimes I cry when people say they feel making art is my purpose. Because I don’t think they realise how vulnerable that place is and yet it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. Because I am nowhere close to the artist I want to be. I have a lot of work to do…

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©2020 by Jessica James.