Meet the Boss: Artist Rachel Jones
Award-winning artist Rachel Jones carries herself like a grand old African dame but her laugh is pure dirty Essex. When she is not hustling around the London, all pippy long stocking legs stuffed into flatform creepers, turns out she’s actually pretty good at painting. “As a kid the ultimate dream was for me to spend the rest of my life 'colouring in' and I realised I could achieve that by going to art school and spending four years learning exactly what I wanted to make art about”. Her work has been featured in The Guardian and The Times and she has collaborated with the likes of clothing company Folk all before the age of 25. Not bad for a girl who thought she could never make it as a painter.
The phrase I probably most overuse is “BAAABE. SHUUUT UUUP!”. I can’t help it, I’m from Essex. I moved to Glasgow at 19 to study Painting & Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art and my experience of the course and Glasgow itself was brilliant. I originally wanted to stay in London- back then I thought London was the centre of the earth- but coming to Glasgow ended up being the best choice I could have made personally and artistically. There’s a really strong art community in Glasgow that you can be part of if you want to, and as a city it feels like one big community. It was a really great environment to paint in. During the four years I spent studying painting I learnt that it is important to be open to everything and to try new and unique things. It’s the experiences you have experimenting and making what is sometimes ‘bad art’ that leads to the good stuff.
Listen to Rachel’s Spotify playlist
The body of work I made for my graduate show was really last minute. I made around twenty big, colourful abstract figurative paintings in three months. It was surreal but wonderful because I’d never painted like that before. All that good stuff was hiding from me – I spent most of the year drawing and panicking about not being able to paint – and then there it was, all at once. The work was inspired by my experiences studying at Glasgow School of Art. My work has always been centered around the female form, but during my final year I become increasingly interested with the role the female has to play as an artist and muse. The art school has a brilliant history of female practitioners, and I used this alongside my knowledge of certain artists’ work to create my own drawings and paintings.
I try to portray the lesser-known and often feared female gaze in my paintings, focusing on the contrast between the female vision and the historicised and respected gaze of the accomplished male painter.My work raises questions about the role women play in society. I want to change the way people consider the female nude. It is important that when people think of the history of art they understand the active role that women had and continue to play. My work is an attempt to reclaim women’s vision and change the male dominant understanding we have of the representation and roles of women in art.
Most precious item in my wardrobe was designed by a fellow student at the art school, Matthew Allen. It was the the dress I wore to my graduate degree art show. He created the dress with the idea of the relaxed sportswear in mind – almost like throwing on a t-shirt with an evening skirt. The focus on it being clean and minimal so it would stand out from my work which is vivid and bold. The textile of the dress was heavy wool and I loved that Matthew managed to use a traditional fabric in a really youthful way. I feel like he really thought about the night- I wanted to stand out but also needed to be comfortable and feel at ease in it. We had this image of me being instantly recognisable against my exhibited work. On the night I added a printed scarf and big hoops – it made it feel less formal and more me.
I couldn’t live without my high-waisted Levis. I buy them from vintage shops which means they’re always super soft and worn in when I get them so all the hard work is done for me. And I’ll never get rid of my not-so-white converse. I’ve had them for seen years and they are dying a slow death, but I refuse to throw them away. Next on my list of purchases is a bespoke tailored leopard print suit. BOOM!
I think my dream is to have shows internationally, and for lots of people to see my paintings. I want my work to change the ways that people view themselves and the world we live in. My mum always says: “It’s not about being liked by people, it’s about being real,” which is the best advice ever. You’ve got to surround yourself with people that make you a better version of yourself and love you. If people don’t do that for you, get rid of them. Move it or lose it sista!