Jennifer Nieuwland’s painting The Stone Horse was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize in 2019. The painting depicts a figure riding a rocking horse, child-like body but an aged female head, surrounded by alluring colours. She’s positioned in a fantastical environment complete with gestural splashes and Alice-in-Wonderland-esque cascading playing cards. In this interview Jennifer Nieuwland shares her experience of being part of the Jackson’s Painting Prize, and what it’s like to embark on a career as a professional artist.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your artistic background?
Jennifer: I was a self taught artist up until this year but I am currently studying for an MA in Fine art at City and Guilds school of Art in London. When I left school I gave up a place on the foundation course at Central St. Martins to pursue a different degree and career path. However, after many years I decided to pursue my love of painting and here I am!
Lisa: What is The Stone Horse about?
Jennifer: The Stone Horse is a painting about time and memory. It layers the past and the present, memory and reality to create an uncanny image where one experiences a sense of time travel within one frame. The painting is of a lady I met at an old people’s home, I spent time sketching her face and talking to her about her memories. Her memory takes centre stage in the painting but my memories also creep into the image creating a connection between our histories.
Lisa: Your series of paintings that superimpose an adult head on to a child’s body is very distinctive. Do you ever worry about painting work that you feel might be expected of you, rather than work that inspires you on a personal level?
Jennifer: Yes that is something I’m sure all artists struggle with especially at the beginning of their practice when one is searching for an individual theme or style. However, I think it’s very difficult to keep making work that doesn’t inspire on a personal level as the drive for making art is to find a personal language and this language has to take into account the themes and ideas you are personally interested in in the first place. One can get stuck in a cycle of expectations but I always keep trying to push my work into new directions and to question all aspects of my practice, from the themes to the process to the materials I’m using.
Lisa: Can you tell us about the art materials you most like to work with? Do you have any favourite brands?
Jennifer: I tend to work with oil paints mostly and I use Michael Harding and Winsor and Newton Oils but I also use Jackson’s and Golden acrylic paints. I sometimes work with oil pastels, charcoals and inks. I buy all my materials at Jackson’s, I have a lot of reward points!
Lisa: Are there any recurring challenges that pop up within your painting practice? If so have you devised any ways to tackle these?
Jennifer: Usually the challenge is to not get stuck in a place that feels too easy, familiar and comfortable. Pushing your practice forwards and exploring new ideas and processes can be very frustrating but one has to go there in order to find new and exciting possibilities.
Lisa: How much do you know about the painting you’re about to produce at the point of facing the blank canvas with a loaded paintbrush?
Jennifer: It depends if I’m trying out something completely new or not. But even if I have an idea of what I’m painting I try not to be too prescriptive or plan the painting in advance. My work relies on the accidents that occur while painting and sometimes those accidents take you in a completely different direction. It may be a shape you didn’t expect or a colour that’s working in a particular way, these surprises created by a more instinctive and unconscious application of paint can make all the difference and drive the work down a new path.
Lisa: Where is your favourite place to make work?
Jennifer: In my studio where I am in my own world with no distractions! Usually there is music playing but sometimes I have to be in total silence to get in that ‘zone’.
Lisa: What are you hoping to achieve artistically in the year ahead?
Jennifer: I am currently doing an MA in Fine art with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of my practice and pushing it in new directions.
Lisa: How have you found the experience of taking part in the Jackson’s Painting Prize and do you have any advice for anyone considering taking part this year?
Jennifer: It was a great experience, the Jackson’s team are all lovely and were very responsive. It was exciting to be showing at the Affordable Art Fair amongst other emerging artists, the Jackson’s stand was beautifully laid out and well curated. I would highly recommend it.
Header image: The School Dance, 2019, by Jennifer Nieuwland, oil and pastel on canvas, 100 x 120 cm
Click here to find out more about Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020