Encompassing paint, paper, photography and new media with Jennifer Bell
Jennifer Bell is an Australian contemporary artist who works primarily in painting and paper weaving, but her practice also encompasses textiles, paper art, photography and new media. Jennifer's work explores pattern and visual perception influenced largely by her experience of a little known neuro-ophthalmological condition which means she sees patterned dots in her visual field, continuously. These dots appear as a fine veil of dancing, kaleidoscopic colour that can never be turned off. Even on the calmest day and in the simplest of environments, surroundings that may seem static and plain to others are full of movement and decoration.
Jennifer shares this unique experience of the world through her art. Patterns exist all around us and beauty can be found even in the simplest of objects.
Did you come from a creative family/how was your creativity fostered? ~ Yes we’re a pretty creative family; my mum was very arty and always encouraged me to make things. She got a diploma in Visual Art in her 50’s and also created amazing appliqués and patchworks with beautiful fabrics and shiny threads - that’s been a pretty big influence on my work.
When you're not busy creating art - what would we find you spending time on? ~ Oh dear, thinking about it I pretty much just create art! I have a five year old so if I’m not in the studio I’m spending time with him. I guess with art being my job AND my hobby, free time tends to blur into work time - a lot!
I have an old Queenslander to renovate so I do enjoy working on that and in the garden, probably more planning ideas for it than actual DIY, but we’re getting there.
Tell us about where you create and what your studio is like, how does a typical working day in the studio go? ~ My studio is a sunny room in my old Queenslander, we’re about to get some work done which will mean some extra storage and the studio will open out onto a new deck giving me a bit more space on a nice day to work outside. Looking forward to that, and I’ll hopefully be able to do a couple of open studios this year.
I usually go straight into the studio very early and try to clear all my emails and get as much admin done before the little guy is up and about. My first job of the day later is printing up any orders for open editions that have come in, packaging work up that’s sold, then I do the post run. The rest of the day I try to paint, weave or illustrate fitting it around what I’m doing with the little guy. But my typical working day is about to change dramatically with him starting school this year. So it will be five full days in the studio for the first time in quite a while!
How has your work progressed over the years? ~ It’s always been very patterned and I’ve always enjoyed working with a variety of different media. When I studied fine art at university I was immediately drawn to the digital imaging and photography components of the course. There was a requirement to spend a certain number of hours in the studio, so I printed my work out and continued working into it with paint, ink and thread - etc. I was very interested in textiles but it was not considered to be ‘art’ back then. Over the years I have incorporated more and more textile techniques to my work. Recent paintings have been inspired by textile designs like woven baskets and Japanese boro stitching for example.
Where I’m living has had a big impact of my work from an aesthetic point of view as well as just practical things. In 2000 I moved to New Zealand and that is where my love of landscapes started. I ran my own gallery for a while and had a lot of space to work in, so my art was pretty big and I could take my time on larger paintings and mixed media pieces. But when I later moved to London (tiny flat and travelling all the time) my work was predominantly digital and photographic. Now I’ve settled back in Australia and I’m a full time artist and I’ve been able to work on more time consuming pieces like detailed paintings, paper cuttings and paper weavings. I love to experiment with different techniques and materials so it’s exciting to see where it goes next.
Do you have any new projects you're working on? ~ There is a never ending ‘to do’ list of ideas, but this year I’d really like to focus on combining more of my landscape work with my painted weavings. I’ve deliberately not organised too much for this year just to make sure the little guy settles into school ok, and for myself, to get used to my new routine!