Spotlight

Feature Dublin-based figurative painter Vanessa Jones

Championed by W.K. Lyhne
Visual Arts
The Wick - Feature Dublin-based figurative painter Vanessa Jones
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The Wick - Feature Dublin-based figurative painter Vanessa Jones
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Interview
Vanessa Jones
23 March 2022
Interview
Vanessa Jones
23 March 2022
Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, The Sequested Prize self-portrait award was designed to offer light and hope at a time when the art market was widely suffering. Co-founded by artist W. K. Lyhne, who knows it often takes several jobs to shelter the flickering flame of an art career, and art consultant Fru Tholstrup, it was designed to create a platform to support those working to establish or continue their artistic practice. Following an open call for self-portraits, 15 Sequested Prize artists are selected by an impressive judging panel that includes arts broadcaster and curator Kate Bryan, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan, Sotheby’s Fergus Duff and our own The Wick founder Katy Wickremesinghe. This year also saw The Judges Choice Award and a £3,000 cash prize awarded to artist Vanessa Jones.
W. K. Lyhne says: “The self-portrait has long been a vehicle for the artist, but has a special significance for the female artist. When women weren’t allowed to depict others or even themselves, and weren’t considered artists or allowed to enter education and academies, they continued to do self-portraits as a means of expression, reinforcing the notion that women need to paint. Although I wasn’t a judge and Fru [Tholstrup] and I didn’t select any of the works in our own right, I love Vanessa’s work as it is so luscious, delicious and clever, and resoundingly original.”

The American-born, Dublin-based Jones is a figurative painter who explores themes around the feminine, primordial impulses and medieval associations with beauty through the filter of self-portraiture. She was completing an MA in Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin when she decided to enter The Sequested Prize.

Jones says: “The past couple of years, but especially the last five months, have been incredibly rewarding. The Sequested Prize was the first thing after lockdown began that I had to look forward to. I saw Ishbel Myerscough’s Instagram post about the competition, and I felt like I finally had a deadline to create something when the world sort of collectively shut down. I knew that the idea of the self-portrait was important, even if I wasn’t certain why, so I entered, and from there, a whole series of self-portraits developed.

“The series that started with ‘HoMi Hand Plow’ ended up being my graduate body of work. I called it ‘Self-replicating Self-portraits’. From this series, I was shortlisted for the Graduate RDS Visual Art Awards Exhibition in Dublin from which I was awarded the R.C. Lewis-Crosby Award and the RDS Mason, Hayes & Curran LLP Centre Culturel Irlandais Residency in Paris.”

Another painting in the series was also included in the National Gallery of Ireland’s Zurich Portrait Prize and highly commended.

Jones adds: “What all started with the painting that I made for The Sequested Prize ended up shaping my practice. It was a breakthrough piece for me, but I never imagined it would be chosen by a group of judges who I have respected from afar in the art world. It was enough to have them see my work, but it feels fitting that The Judges Choice Award was given after everything else and at the end of the lockdowns. I just feel really grateful.”

In addition to continuing her series of self-portraits, which deal with feminine archetypes and symbols around walled gardens and the sea, Jones has a three-month residency in Paris this summer. She is also working on a collaboration with French tapestry artist Bettina Saroyan.

About the champion

The Wick - Feature Dublin-based figurative painter Vanessa Jones

When she’s not creating brand-new art prizes during a pandemic, W. K. Lyhne is an artist, curator and researcher. She has a wide-ranging practice, mainly focused on painting, but also including drawing, ceramics, sculpture and film. She is currently showing at Hales Gallery in London in support of Ukraine and is represented by Lungley Gallery. She is also the incoming British Council Arts research fellow at the British School in Athens for 2022.

“I love Vanessa’s work as it is so luscious, delicious and clever, and resoundingly original.”

Place of Birth

Nashville, US

Education

Master of Fine Art, Painting, at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Fine Art at The George Washington University, Washington D.C.

Awards, Accolades

Draíocht Open Call Graduate Exhibition Prize (2022) and RDS Mason Hayes & Curran LLP Centre Culturel Irlandais Residency Award (2021), R.C. Lewis-Crosby Award (2021), Zurich Portrait Prize, highly commended in 2021 and shortlisted and included in the exhibition in 2020, and The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Award (2021 and 2019)

Current exhibitions

Mata Irlandia, World Trade Centre, Jakarta, The Sequested Prize online, you breathe differently down here, curated by Amanda Coogan, until 30 April at Draíocht Blanchardstown, Ireland and the Zurich Portrait Prize Exhibition at the National Gallery, Dublin before transferring to Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

I think that this is what I find in art. I look at a painting and I feel like I am communicating with someone who lived in a different place and time. That connection is powerful as an image-maker. Lisa Yuskavage podcasts and YouTube videos, which she has archived over the years, sustained me over lockdown. I’m drawn to Rachel Feinstein. She deals with themes of the feminine and the darkness and duality that I think I attempt to also address in my work. Speaking of, I’m a great fan as a figurative artist of John Currin, some works more than others. My sister gave me The Dogwood Thieves publication, which I’m constantly looking at for the struggle he illustrates as a painter. Also, my sister; she knows so much. I feel connected to the 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich. Before I ever read her work, I had a dream eerily similar to a passage in her writings.

Advice

There was a piece of advice that Lisa Yuskavage gave, which I think is well worth passing on. She said something to the effect of, “If you see something you like, make it better. Paint what you want.” As an artist, there is a lot of self-sabotage before you ever start making. You convince yourself that an idea is a failure before you ever get started. Yuskavage’s advice seemed to be saying, just make what you want. Do it.


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