Writing: Elizabeth Jackson

As Light as a Painting.

I wonder what the entirety of my house and its possessions would weigh if I were to put them all on a giant set of scales. Would it be heavier than my neighbours? Maybe all those hefty artist monographs would tip the scales in my favour. I’ve moved so often during my life that I feel like I can understand the physical weight of my possessions. At the age of 36 I have lived in approximately 30 different places. My dad was in the Air Force and my adult life seems to have continued this nomadism for work reasons. I studied painting originally and for a few years after graduating I continued to make work alongside writing and curating. One of the reasons I stopped making art was because I felt that every painting I made was making my world smaller and heavier. Lugging materials from flat to flat, paintings stacked up against the wall, oil paint on my jeans, the smell of turpentine permeating my hair. I don’t miss it.

I like words because they don’t cost anything and don’t take up space. I like spending time with other people’s spaces — they can make the mess on my behalf. I’m looking at one of Elizabeth Jackson’s paintings. It stands propped up on my bookshelf next to my bed, nestled alongside some books by William Golding and Graham Greene. The painting itself is a modestly scaled thing, a little smaller than a paperback. It’s monochromatic with a gradient of light blue paint that dissolves into an iridescence gold at the bottom. If I was the sentimental type, I’d read the painting as a beach. It’s snowing outside and the painting reminds of me of summer, radiating a warmth that is missing in these sub-zero temperatures. It’s been painted in watercolour or perhaps gauche and framed by a thin piece of wood painted white. If the frame is typically a device for separating the painted surface from the lived real space around it, then this frame does something quite different. It contains the expanse of colour yet also, by virtue of its depth, casts shadows over the surface, encroaching on it — painting is put into conversation with the world around it.

When I look at Jackson’s painting my attention is rebounded back into the room. The West German pottery just above it, bought as a Christmas present by my brother. It’s matte cream surface stands out against the pale grey wall. To the left of the painting is a broken piece of Murano glass from an old chandelier. Like an amphibious underwater creature, it feels curiously out of place. The early morning light is fading and its a blizzard outside. I start to notice the surfaces. A burnished oak jewellery box. A couple of books that have never left their cellophane wrapper. Something that you live with is an easy thing to overlook. Familiarity numbs the senses. Jackson’s painting with their economical sensitivity feel like a held breath among the general chatter. She makes paintings that feel like gaps, full stops and pauses — they’re as light as a feather that bring our attention to the heaviness that surrounds them.

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About georgevasey

George Vasey is a curator and writer. You can contact him at georgegrahamvasey@gmail.com

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