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"Mind the gap”: fill the space between two different artists

Anna Dickerson, Deanna Jackson, 21.Sep.08
Author Marina Giostra

“Mind the gap” is an exhibition by London based artists Anna Dickerson and Deanna Jackson. Rather than an exhibition of similarity, the title draws attention to the disparate personalities and practices of the artists. Anna and Deanna come from different generations, different backgrounds; they work in different mediums and are interested in different subjects.

When I met them at Anna’s studio, however, they emphasised the many things they had in common, beginning when they both worked in acme artist studios at Copperfield Road.

Deanna remembers: “We could discuss our work in a non competitive and rational manner which I believe has been helpful to both of us. We seem to have balanced our skill areas and “Mind the Gap” should be an interesting exhibition”.

Anna confirms: “It was a very exciting and funny moment when we put together our images and decided how to show our work in Ferreira Projects gallery space”.

Anna Dickerson grew up in Rome and when 9 years old she started to paint ‘everyday’ in a different room of her house, in the kitchen, bedroom and also in the bathroom. Her brother was involved in studying music and her father made sculptures as a hobby. She received a lot of encouragement from her family and at 14 years old she attended her first art course in Assisi, Northern Italy.
When she was older she studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art, renowned for being a well-established environment for painters. Mostly she recalls her anatomy lessons at college because the teachers encouraged students to paint and draw human models- living or dead.

Deanna Jackson, by contrast, grew up in Liverpool and started to paint when she was a child. But later her parents convinced her to pursue scientific studies. Hence as scientist she had no time to dedicate to painting and she was frustrated because she wanted to be a painter. Nevertheless, the chemistry and biology studied at University provided a useful method of research and a future foundation for her paintings. At 40 she had the opportunity to study at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London.

When Anna was in Italy she was fascinated by the Italian Renaissance and by the luminosity and the mystery in the Caravaggio’s paintings in Piazza del Popolo in Rome. Her first art teachers Bea Kreloff and Edith Isaac-Rose in New York were her mentors, and remain so. Rothko’s paintings at the Metropolitan Museum in New York influenced her thoughts on abstract painting.

She affirms: “The fantastic trip to New York greatly influenced my approach to art. I visited many contemporary galleries and I was really inspired by the spaces…you could see people walking among huge sculptures and paintings they are about to buy. I think travelling has been an important part of my education as painter and has marked my development into a multicultural art field.”

At Glasgow School of Art, Barbara Rae introduced her to new materials and she used the time to experiment with different styles. Nowadays she goes to the Tate Britain to admire Dubuffet’s paintings and the entire Courtauld collection is absolutely her favourite.

Deanna was influenced by various lecturers from her Art School too. One in particular was Timothy Hyman, a painter and expert on Siennese Art. She travelled to Italy to study the artists from Siena and has spent many hours drawing from the early Italian Art, in particular Giovanni di Paolo in the National Gallery in London. Another great influence comes from Celtic and Indian Mythology. Her work has strong links to the theories of the “Carnivalesque” postulated by the Russian philosopher Bahktin, who expressed the folk knowledge in an anachronistic way, speaking about a joyful and anarchic world.

Deanna remembers:as a child growing up in Liverpool I visited the Walker Art Gallery and was impressed by the painting by William Holman Hunt 1854 ( one of the Pre Raphaelite painters) called “ The Scapegoat”. I was touched by the colours which conveyed the emotions in the work.

Anna Dickerson’s drawings on paper and paintings on canvas explore visual perception, nature and the boundaries between figuration and abstraction. She has been drawing animals since she was a child because, through them, she can express emotions and because she has an affinity with these subjects. She paints wolf, owls and albatross and other creatures defined by their strong independent spirit.
She doesn’t paint animals in a specific landscape because she considers it is implicit and not necessary.

Anna and Deanna agree that painting is a cathartic process and this kind of art is more immediate than referencing through symbols. “The artist doesn’t have to make up anything but just tries to express what happens to family and the person without being too direct”.

Anna: “I am very impulsive in everything in my life and I paint straight away, free from inhibitions. I put layers on layers without removing anything and I am stuck with the same painting until finishing with it. I am always thrilled and engaged by this immediacy -you can spoil your work in some way and you ask yourself if that colour might work there- the risks are part of what makes painting an exciting practise. I do some things that are hard to fathom, but they just feel right because the paint itself and the creatures carry equal weight as subject matters in their own right.”

By contrast Deanna approaches painting through an intellectual process that takes a long time. This personal process involves three different steps: the first one comprises a selection of a particular area, recently Borough High Street in Southwark (in the past Mile End and Spitafields have been used), taking also inspiration from some paintings, such as Hogarth’s print “Southwark Fair” Giovanni di Paolo’s “St John the Baptist retiring to the desert”. The second step is walking the area while drawing with ink. Sometimes she makes drawings for 18 months before starting the painting. The third step is researching the history in the local archive library. This method provides the basis for her idiosyncratic representations of urban life in a narrative way, following the tradition of oil painting. She responds to the different kinds of behaviour evidenced in the different spaces contained within the City of London.

Anna “My creatures emerge from a mass of flicked paint, the technique of dropping paint on the canvas. Flicking is a messy process because the paint spreads everywhere on the floor of my studio. My flicked paintings change optically with the changing ambient light and for this reason I often use yellow instead of white because it is more flexible. Essentially I paint with 5 different colours, 3 of them are primary. I work exclusively in acrylic paints and “Aquacryl” made by “Lascaux”. I typically work 10 hours a day often 7 days a week. A large canvas of 90 x 90 cm can take up to 6 weeks to complete.”

By contrast Deanna paints in oil, encaustic and watercolour and makes small wax figurative sculptures also present at the exhibition. Her method of painting is based on the continual additions and subtractions to the surface of the canvas. She uses oil paint and watercolour and Chinese ink for the drawings.

Deanna: “Oil paint needs months to dry completely. I usually wait 2/3 days to put another colour over it and for this reason I work on 8 paintings at the same time, producing roughly 10 paintings a year. I paint 3 days a week in my studio, from 9am to 4.30pm. and other days I go out drawing and doing my research. I also have a busy family life (3 grandsons) which also enriches my artistic life.

What advice would you give to an artist just graduated in Art?

The first thing they both suggest is to have a studio, better if in the same building with other artists for the support and involvement in the art community. They advise to be open-minded, professional and to establish a web site in order to show works. Moreover artists need to have “a plan B” to survive financially but most of all never give up making art because it is vital to the artist’s cultural health.

Time estimated for the reading: 10 min

“MIND THE GAP” exhibition
30 Sep. 08 – 11 Oct. 08
Monday - Saturday 10am - 8pm, Sunday 5 Oct and Saturday 11 Oct 10am -4pm
Lower Ground Floor
23 Charlotte Road
London EC2A 3PB
020 7033 3788
Tube Old Street, Liverpool Street, Shoreditch / Hoxton

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