Jennifer Lawrence has been working as an artist for some years now. It is a slow, steady, and twisty path. Communicating through art is though; the compulsion which drives her onward.
I have roamed the coastline around this part of southern NSW for longer than I care to acknowledge, the colours I find during my rambles appear almost unbidden onto my palette, and I am further inspired by community, beauty, and humanity.
The question I explore through my work is ‘What is Home?’ How do we choose the setting we call home? How do we find a home in our community, how do we find ‘our tribe’?
This COVID era has forced us all to stop and consider what home in its simplest form means. Humans have adapted and explored the importance of simple comforts and community during adversity, this brings some comfort in such a cynical world.
Home is also our planet, our world, and our immediate surroundings. How do we want to care for home going into the future?
My current body of work is called Finding Home – The Human Scar. This body of work explores marks of belonging on humans, marks of injury or adversity on humans, marks humans have made on their surroundings.
I am a painter who loves textile. I love distressing and painting into silk. I marvel at its organic nature and tactility, I admire its tenacity and spirit. Silk is open to reinvention, it evokes memory and history.
Working this way has enabled me to combine my love of drawing, silk, and paint, it has been an artistic homecoming for me.
Other loves include history, anthropology (my current passion), literature, and my family.
I do not have a fine arts degree, instead have gleaned knowledge at every opportunity and just worked very hard.
Hello Jennifer, how did it all start for you in the world of art?
Jennifer: Hello Lisa, I had to think about the answer to this question. When I first began my art journey as an adult, people from my youth told me that I’d always been creative. I have no clear memory of that child or teen. As an adult, my art journey began when I needed my own space whilst raising 4 children. About 15 years ago. I have been extraordinarily lucky with teachers, mentors, and opportunities, but essentially have worked long and hard to reach this point in my journey.
What does your studio look like, and how important is the studio for making the artwork?
Jennifer: My studio is reasonably small, but it achieves everything I need it to. It is a white space with amazing light coming from the East. The ocean is 6 km from our house, and it is the view I see when I look out of my studio
window. My studio space is essential to my creativity. It is where I keep bits and pieces I find during my walks, it is a place where I am alone with my paints, silks, charcoals, and tools, I have nowhere to hide in my studio space.
Can you share a usual day in your life, and what a day in your art studio is like… we love the details, and what music would you listen to, and do you have any pets accompanying you?!
Jennifer: I am an early riser, and after a very large cup of tea with lemon and toast with vegemite, I take my dogs to the beach for a long walk and play. The colours I find during these walks are part of my fabric and always appear, sometimes unbidden in my work. I will buy a coffee before I come back. I am usually in the studio by around 10.00 am 4 days a week. My listening varies enormously depending on the day. Blues music is a favorite, along with 70’s protest music and Pink Floyd.
Having said that I’m also partial to Indie and dirt music. If I can’t find music that ’sits well’, I may listen to podcasts or just rely on the birds outside for company. I find working very intense and all-consuming process, so the background noise is very important to me. I will usually work intently for 4 or 5 hours, being aware of walking away rather than overthinking or worse, overworking. Painting into silk is good for me in this way as I need to let it dry between layers in order to gauge the effect of the paint. My dog Frankie will follow me to the studio and sleep in her bed for as long as it takes.
If I need a break I look out at the ocean or pull some weeds from the garden. I will often take the stitch component of my work into the house because I like to vary my working environment.
The project you are currently working on is called Finding Home – The Human Scar. Could you tell me more about that? And is there a story on how you’ve got inspired by the “Home” subject?
Jennifer: I actually changed the title of this body of work to Finding Home – Marks of Belonging. Finding Home is about the adaptability of humans and their ability to rediscover simple comforts and community during hardship.
How do humans know when they have found Home? Does Home always have to be defined by where your bed is? I think the idea of tribe or community both local and global are of equal importance. History and anthropology are other interests (obsessions) of mine, so the observation of humans and humanity itself has been a part of my life for a long time. I actually have a degree in history.
Is there a message you are trying to give with your art, or is it something else?
Jennifer: I do have a message, but my art is also the way I express myself, it is a compulsion within me. I become very anxious if I am out of the studio for too long. I think my message is twofold. I believe everyone, irrespective of any story or circumstance deserves ‘Home’ and belonging. I believe these concepts have an enormous diversity of meaning and I love exploring how the concept of Home has evolved. A modern chair dragged from the trash in order to watch the ocean from very likely the same place on the beach or foreshore as people have sat for thousands of years. I am also fascinated by tribal marking, tribal or group dressing, and the textile that is used now and has been used historically. The second part of my message is that we need to be mindful about the
‘Marks of Belonging’ we impose on our surroundings. Mining, deforestation, urban sprawl – the list goes on – are all, for me, negative behavior within the human quest to find a home.
Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your artwork, if yes, what was it?
Jennifer: Yes: The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 saw NSW and us personally endure and live through the catastrophic bushfires. This horrendous event was closely followed by the COVID epidemic. The fires and our own 3 very near misses sapped me of my creativity for a little while. I did not find anything about the burnings to be inspiring. The community grief overwhelmed all of us, and going forward was very challenging.
Then the COVID pandemic came along and it was not necessary as an individual or as a member of my local community to wear a ‘brave face’. We had to stay at home.
I watched and listened to how this pandemic played out around the world and became fascinated by the idea of home and human belonging. During this time, humanity and community at its best were often in evidence. I would add that as a human who is often restless and at her best when nomadic; I find it absolutely fascinating and confounding when a person can say categorically that they have ‘found home’.
What artists influenced you the most and why?
Jennifer: Alberto Burri, Picasso, Mondrian and Kandinsky, Edward Hopper, and Helen Frankenthaler. These artists encapsulate the influences I draw on for my own art. The commonality here for me is that each one creates work that invites you to imagine. Alberto Burri’s textile methods are a huge influence on me. Equally, Picasso’s method of pushing past the obvious. Mondrian and Kandinsky because I enjoy their essays and artistic journeys. My favorite period is the Weimar period and all of the different forms of creativity encompassed. Edward Hopper because of his art and study of humanity but also because of my favorite quote:
“If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.” and Helen Frankenthaler because I just love her work.
What is the work you’ve done that you’re the most excited about?
Jennifer: I was very excited about my first ‘Finding Home’ body of work. It was the first time I had married my love of textile with my love of paint. The results were incredible, the show a sell-out.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Jennifer: I think the best way to reach people that are interested in my art is to promote my art on social media, magazine articles, via the website, in shows, and in competitions.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Jennifer: My goal is to grow as an artist. To me, this means being invited to show in a gallery in a capital city and having people contact me for projects involving my art. Now that the world is opening again, I am exploring the idea of ‘the other art fair’.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Jennifer: I have already used my art as a therapy tool at a retirement village, I found this to be one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. My art and my dogged journey as a woman to become a successful artist are a legacy for my children and grandchildren.