WJFF-NPR Talks with Jessica Holmes

If you'd like to listen the to full interview with Jessica Holmes and Laura Silverman, click here and look for April 20th episode.

Farm & Country, Rosie Starr: Here is visiting artist Jessica Holmes who found her way through Instagram. Her paintings were inspired by a visit to the Catskills and I was delighted to meet her and view the small collection of botanical images. Click Here to See Jessica's Full Show

Jessica Holmes: My Name is Jessica Holmes, I am from London England and about 10 years ago I came to the Catskills and came to do I was walking and hiking around and I was really inspired by the nature of what I saw here and i really wanted to make a series of work about it.  

F&C: What part of the Catskills were you visiting at the time?

JH:I was in Phoenicia, which I think is a little further to the northeast from here. The Big Indian Wilderness and I was there in June, so there was a lot of amazing flowers and vegetation springing up everywhere

F&C: Was it like un like anything that you saw back in England?

JH: Yes, it was! On the drive up, I drove up from NYC, and on the way up it looked like the English landscape in places. But once I got up, right up here, it was completely different and it was wonderful to be in the woods, the very very dark woods. Quite exotic because we don’t have bears in England so the thought that i might see a bear at any moment gave it extra excitement.

F&C: Well, let’s walk around the room here and talk about your very exciting artwork. At first glance we see a very natural, very beautiful, botanically correct against the very dark background. Let’s talk about what inspired you to paint like this.

JH: Well, I like the idea of something very organic coming up against something maybe a little bit more man made. And in this work I wanted there to be that idea of maybe some sort of distressed man made surface, something might have been a little bit of forgotten space. In other paintings, they’re more organic like a woodland or a dark space, but everywhere in these paintings something is either sprouting up, or moving across the canvas. So, I wanted to play around with shapes, which could sort of be energized by the vegetation that would be rising up through it.

F&C: Tell us about the medium that you use.

JH: I use acrylic on canvas and I use that because it allows me to work quite quickly. I add some different thinners in it as well, so it gives it more of a luster and shine in some places or makes it much drier.

F&C: Let’s talk about this contrast of the beautiful natural colors against a very dark background.

JH: Well. I think it really helps the colors to pop when they’re against this very dark background and I think it’s very much influenced by Dutch Vanitas painting. The idea of all these plants blooming together at the same time, because there’s about 24 different species in the 8 paintings that are on show here. But they wouldn’t all bloom at the same time; but they’re all sort brought together to be in a state of perpetual spring and constantly blooming and I think that they’re sort of finding their way up to the light.

F&C: What is the background? Is it granite, is it earth?

JH: In these ones, it’s a synthetic background, in some of these painting. So for instance, in this one, it’s something maybe a painted distressed surface. Some surface that used to be shiny but that now in a state of decay. Now, in the ones over here that are darker, I think its much more about somewhere in a forest, somewhere that you’re walking past that’s in a much more organic place.

F&C: Can you talk about the plants they are? Do you know them by name?

JH: So in this one for instance, we have pale blue aster. And this one is called spotted Touch me Not, or Jewelweed.

F&C: Do you know that we think of as the antidote of poison ivy? We have poison ivy here and the jewelweed plant usually grows near it and that's how you get rid of the itch.

JH: Oh, I didn’t know that. I was not aware. That’s good to hear. This is red columbine, this is a rattlesnake root, and a white violet over here.

F&C: They’re very striking to the eye close up and in this gallery you have the opportunity to be right up to the images. Let’s talk about this one.

JH: Ok, so this one i felt, it was the last work I made of the whole series, and I thought it would come most naturally. But in fact it was the most difficult. Because I felt like I needed to add more and more to it. But in the end I decided it needed to be more simple. It features this bee balm, two heads of bee balm, which i felt were dramatic enough as they were not to add too much to this painting. But sometimes as an artist, its hard to know when a work is finished.

F&C: What is your background?

JH: My background is that I am a painter. I went to art school, the Art School of Wimbledon, and after that I was at the Royal Academy to do my masters. But also I have worked as an archivist for many years part time, I have always been interested in history. My father was a historian. And so, I love the idea of recoiling those memories through painting. Last year i made a series of work looking at a list of an old Georgian Greenhouse, a list of plants in this long gone greenhouse that grew in 1810. And so this idea of recoiling and in a way making a record of something in the past refers to my work as an archivist as well.

F&C: I noticed that two of your paintings are on round canvas. Why did you do that?

JH: Well, it’s just great to play with the imagery in a different way. It throws up new challenges for me as an artist and it keeps you fresh to keep changing the dimensions of the work from square to rectangle, portrait to landscape.

F&C: Thank you for taking the time to speak to speak to us.

JH: Thank you very much.

From Forage Space: We would like to thank Rosie Starr for visiting the gallery and talking to Jessica Holmes about her work, which is up until May 5.

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