Studio Visit

Laura Jones

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
20th of June 2014
beautiful floral details from the studio of Sydney artist Laura Jones. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Painting by Sydney artist Laura Jones, hanging in her studio.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Details from the studio of Sydney artist Laura Jones. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Laura's richly coloured palette.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Artist Laura Jones in her studio in the Southern Highlands of NSW. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Oh my.  I am not sure my rambing words can really do justice to the incredible imagery accompanying today's blog post.  The exquisite work of artist Laura Jones has been so perfectly captured by talented Sydney photographer Rachel Kara... I just want to jump into each photograph, and spend an afternoon sipping tea, sniffing freshly picked flowers and admiring the beautiful work in Laura's studio!  Something truly magical has been captured here... We first discovered Laura at the start of last year when we ran a little post about a public art exhibition in Sydney that she was involved in at the time called The Conductor's Project - a unique project in which artworks are displayed inside antique glass cabinets within two of Sydney’s most beautiful old train stations.  Not surprisingly, Laura's beautiful paintings really struck a chord with you guys... and we've kept a close eye on her since then.  (It certainly feels longer than just a year!). With her recent focus on flowers, it's easy to forget that Laura is also a talented portrait painter - in fact she was shortlisted for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2012 which is a very big deal!  However, in recent years, Laura's still life paintings have taken centre stage.  Her paint-laiden canvases depict floppy, old fashioned floral arrangements, brought to life with intense layers of oil paint and bold, confident brushstrokes.  Laura paints all her flowers from life, working quickly and intuitively, intent on capturing their fleeting beauty. Though she has spent many years living and studying in Sydney, Laura is a country girl at heart, having grown up in The Blue Mountains.  She currently lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW, in a little town called Exeter, and has a studio in neighbouring Robertson.  Working in a rural setting has re-ignited Laura's affection for nature and for fresh garden flowers, and has allowed her to re-connect with the cycle of the seasons.  Her latest body of work is dark and autumnal, reflecting the changing scenery in Laura's world over the past few months. We were thrilled to include Laura's beautiful still life paintings in both our TDF Open House events last year, and she was front of mind when we decided to launch our quarterly art project, TDF Collect, earlier this year.  We feel incredibly lucky that Laura accepted our invitation to stage a solo show with us in Melbourne!  The exhibition, entitled Shadow and Soul,opens in our little gallery space the week after next.  SO FREAKING EXCITED!   Laura is represented by Gallery Ecosse in Exeter, NSW. Shadow and Soul by Laura Jones Opening Thursday 3rd July, 6.00pm - 8.00pm Show runs until 9th July 2014 TDF Collect 87 Albert St Brunswick, VIC We have received quite a lot of interest in Laura's show, so we are accepting pre-sales via email as of this morning.  All enquiries please email - thankyou!
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming an artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?
I grew up in a small town at the foothills of the Blue Mountains called Kurrajong, in a great house my father designed. My mother is a character in Kurrajong, and famous for her cooking and entertaining. Their front door is still always wide open for anyone who feels like a chat or meal. I have a lot of memories of her maxing out the phone bill when we were growing up. Both parents encouraged my brother and I to do what we love and to be engaged with and contribute to the world. We met a lot of people growing up, and were always taught to value a beautiful life… family, friends, food, (flowers, we always had flowers!) and so on. I was always making things as a kid, and encouraged by everyone around me to make art. I absolutely loved it. We spent a lot of time outside. After school, I went to Japan on exchange for a year, which led me to go to Sydney Uni to study Arts and Japanese. I graduated, started working part-time, trying to decide on a career path. After six months I enrolled in a masters majoring in printmaking at COFA. I wore '80s red hightop Reeboks and a daggy old school jumper every day, and came home every single day just covered in ink and paint and so happy. It was a great decision. When I was at art college one of my friends was working in a flower shop close to where I lived in Darlinghurst. It was so beautiful, and she suggested I get a job there. It made a lot of sense and I loved the idea. It was perfect for me. I loved being around flowers, making arrangements and wrapping things, loved that it was physical, even loved all the lugging and mopping and sweeping you had to do. You don’t really have to bother exercising outside of work if you work in a flower shop. Flower shops are action packed, the work never ends and each day is long and hard and rewarding. I learnt so much about why people love flowers. People buy them for so many reasons – to say thank you, to say sorry, to grieve, for friendship, for love, everything. Sometimes people just come in for a look and a sniff! They are for celebrating all stages of life, from the mundane to the massive! They are the most elegant and simple symbol for human life and emotion. Anyway, I got my first studio when I graduated in 2006, and I have held studios ever since. It’s important to have a designated space to make a mess, I think starting a studio was the best education in art I could ever get, and the point when I really became a painter. Strangely though, I didn’t really start painting flowers until about three years ago. Maybe they were too obvious, I think I thought finding your voice in painting had to be hard. Painting should be hard, but you should also paint what you know. Anyway, I started painting flowers when I was having a bit of a rough trot in my life. I wanted to paint something that felt good and looked beautiful to me. Since then I have just kept painting them. I also paint people. Both are endlessly interesting subjects and will probably occupy me for a lifetime. LauraJonesInt-flowers
Laura prepares a floral arrangement in the studio. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
How would you describe your work?
Explosions of paint and colour made joyfully and sometimes with difficulty, always with love!
We are so thrilled to announce that you’ll be our next artist exhibiting at TDF Collect early next month! What can we expect to see in your exhibition, 'Shadow and Soul', in Melbourne? What has inspired this body of work?
So in short, the show is a collection of still life paintings, made this winter from winter flowers, picked from the Southern Highlands near my studio. They are quite dark paintings. Generally, my flower paintings are based on the belief that when you have ups and downs, nature can be a very powerful reminder of the fragility and preciousness of life. There are answers to be found in nature that can guide our way of thinking about life, and how to deal with change. Roll with the seasons!  I've been painting what is around me, and as a result, this body of work is quite autumnal in tone.  It's just paint, but it mirrors what I see. My emotional state and location mean that these are paintings that could have only been made right here right now. It's a great thing to remember when you find yourself in any situation at all really! It is the present and it will change, constantly. I find that comforting, but at the same time disconcerting. Artistically and technically speaking, I'm trying to freeze time with paint by capturing fleeting life, as artists have done for centuries. But I'm also trying to celebrate life through paint, and use paint to learn this lesson over and over again. Recently my friend Lucy Kaldor wrote a short story on The Planthunter called 'To Not Forget'. Lucy had asked me to make a painting of Eucalyptus Macrocarpa to mark the anniversary of her mother’s death. I was so honoured to be asked to make her a painting as an ‘eternal and happy reminder’. I think I’d like the purpose of all my paintings to be ‘to not forget’. So with this in mind, I kept thinking about the reasons people love flowers, and whether that has changed over time. Seventeeth century Dutch still life paintings are some of the earliest examples of flower paintings. They were heavily symbolic, each flower with a meaning, biblical references, the whole bit. I love that they keep reinventing themselves, that they continue to have meaning. Humans are addicted to them. A lot of my paintings for this show feature glass vases. I have really enjoyed playing with perception and illusionism. Because I set up my still life in the studio with real flowers and respond to the real light as it changes throughout the day, I have made paintings that respond to my immediate experience and observation of them. Glass is an amazing thing to paint in this way because more than any other thing I paint, it feels like a trick. I’m playing with my own observation and way of seeing and hoping that what I see translates. Today though, we are used to these tricks with paint. And we are creating new meanings for flowers and paintings. LauraJonesInt-gum
Laura's beautiful painting of Eucalyptus Macrocarpa, made for her friend Lucy Kaldor to mark the anniversary of her mother’s death. 'I was so honoured to be asked to make her a painting as an ‘eternal and happy reminder'' says Laura. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you give us a little insight into your process? What materials do you use? Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple canvases at one time?
I use oil paint on linen. It’s a beautiful and intoxicating medium. I mix up a small palette of colours that I think I am going to use, first by looking at the subject in front of me, whether it be a person or still life. If it is a still life then I have usually spent a while arranging the flowers and thinking about how they will look as a painting. Then I choose a light colour to make a loose under painting, and go straight to the canvas and start drawing with thin paint, keeping the lines fluid. Then I build it up by marking out broad areas of colour, moving over the whole surface over and over again, mixing more paint as I need it. I get rid of most of the white quite quickly. It is quite intuitive and I only work on one painting at a time. I like to keep momentum with the work and try to finish one painting before starting another, although sometimes I do put a painting aside for a while and start a new one. I go back to it when I’ve worked out what it needs. LauraJonesInt-atwindow
Laura at her workbench. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Hmmm, usually I hop up at a not so early hour and have breakfast, go for a walk, go and collect firewood and sticks to light the fire ready for when I come back at night, and then drive to the studio via the Exeter General Store for a coffee. I collect my post from there as well, and sometimes cross the road to Gallery Ecosse to say hello or pinch a rose. It takes about 20 minutes to drive to the studio and occasionally I’ll pull over to pick some blossom or berries on the side of the road, and say a quick hello to the cows. By the time I get to the studio I’ve probably visited my neighbour Pam’s garden, and walk into the studio with a large armful of flowers. At this point without fail I get teased by my studio mates Ben and Andre for turning up to the studio so bright and early. I say, ‘So what!? It’s the crack of midday!’. Anyway, I paint until quite late, occasionally have lunch at the pub with the studio dudes. I get a good long stint of uninterrupted painting time if I do it that way, and in summer the studio was too hot to paint in during the day so I became a night owl. Now that it’s getting very cold I will start much earlier. Still, I come home quite late and write emails and battle with the internet and phone reception at my house. Mostly according to Telstra that has been a wombat’s fault, but also I wouldn’t mind better internet in the country! LauraJones-hands
Laura in the studio. Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
1. I have a lot of art books in the studio and sometimes flick through them to get a bit of visual variety, after looking at my own work all day. At the moment I’m looking at some great books from the Rijksmuseum on Dutch still life paintings. I recently got a book on Karl Blossfeldt which is amazing. 2. Reading the news online. Nothing makes me want to make art more than reading about things like the Budget 2014. 3. Instagram. Looking at peoples photos and playing around with taking photos. I find I use my Instagram like a studio diary. I also love taking photos and find they help me work out my compositions. 4. Going outside. It’s not media but nature is my main source of inspiration, and there’s nothing better than peering at it in the flesh. 5. Art journals are great, like Artist Profile magazine. Looking broadly at art galleries from all over the world online. LauraJonesInt-bench
Studio details.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Painters including Ben Quilty, Luke Sciberras, Guy Maestri, Leslie Rice, Lara Merrett, Alan Jones, Phil James, Clara Adolphs, Mirra Whale. Photographers including Carine Thevenau, David Ryrie, ceramicists including Alex Standen and florists such as Saskia Havekes of Grandiflora and Mikarla Bauer. They all happen to be friends too so they inspire me wholly! Actually, that reminds me of your Mirka Mora interview. That was so inspiring. I don’t want my brain to be pancake either, and I completely agree and think everybody should live by that. LauraJonesInt-skull
Studio details.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Probably the last portrait I made.
What would be your dream project?
To do an artist’s residency in Paris.
What are you looking forward to?
Setting up my new studio in Bowral and going to NYC for a month! LauraJonesInt-sketchbook
Study for a painting.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.


Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
Before I lived in the Highlands, I moved around Sydney almost every year for over a decade! I’ve lived in Newtown, Redfern, Darlinghurst, Woollahra, Paddington, Leichhardt, Alexandria, the list goes on. I know Sydney so well but I always find myself going back to Redfern. I love to go to Café Ella there for a blueberry bagel and quiet catch up with friends. It has been around for years and I’ve been going there since I was at uni so I’m quite attached to it. Arcadia Liquors is a great bar there, conveniently located right next to my best friends’ place.
Where do you shop in Sydney for the tools of your trade?
The Sydney Art Store in Alexandria and Parkers in the Rocks.
Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
I was taken out to 121BC in Surry Hills the other week, so that is officially the last great meal I ate in Sydney. I knew it would be! It was cosy and delicious. LauraJonesInt-final
The studio of Laura Jones, featuring works for her upcoming show in Melbourne.  Photo - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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