We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Conner back to our expert judges panel for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2022. As well as leading the Affordable Art Fair team in the UK, Jennifer is Director of the After Nyne Creative Services Group. Here, she talks about leading the Affordable Art Fair through the challenges of the last two of years, their upcoming projects and exhibitions, and her advice to entrants of the competition this year.
Above image: Cactus Jungle, 2021, Nadia Attura, Giclee Hahnemühle Fine Art Photorag gallery paper 100% cotton 308 gsm printed archival pigmented inks, 70 x 50 cm | 28 x 20 in
Clare: It’s great to have you back on the panel! So much has changed in the world since 2019. What have been the biggest challenges for the Affordable Art Fair team?
Jennifer: By far it was the lack of ‘real life’ events and missing our community of galleries and artists. Fortunately, we had our on-line marketplace which really flourished when people were in lockdown and keen to upgrade their walls! But there is nothing like the buzz of a physical art fair, and the joy of working directly with our fabulous network of people.
Clare: Last time we spoke you told us about some of the artists in your own private collection. Have you added any new pieces in the last 2 years?
Jennifer: Ugh. I should say no, but I just can’t help myself! I recently acquired a piece by Nadia Attura from Will’s Art Warehouse at the Affordable Art Fair in July. She creates multifaceted tableaux using layers of photographic details that she creates on location. The resulting works are bright, colourful compositions that wonderfully convey a sense of place and time. I also purchased an abstract work by JFK Turner, who is an artist with my own gallery, as well as a stunning still life by Jonquil Williamson at the recent Wimbledon Art Studios event.
Clare: Which four artists, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Jennifer: I have chosen four artists who worked in very different styles, but I have primarily chosen them for their interesting lives and the people with whom they circulated. (I mean, really I just want the gossip.)
Claude Monet: Monet was the driving force behind Impressionism and his peers were all renowned, household names. After periods of real financial struggle, Monet purchased his house at Giverny, and those gardens and ponds became his source of inspiration for 40 years. I have been to Giverny and seeing them in real life is almost surreal. I would love to discuss gardening with him, and his incredible use of light and colour.
John Singer Sargent: Like me, Sargent was an American who spent most of his time living in Europe. He painted portraits of the ‘great and the good’ at the time, and all convey an Edwardian-era luxury. One of my favourite exhibitions was his solo review at Tate Britain; the painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose looked as though it was lit from within… just extraordinary. I’d also want to discuss the scandal surrounding his painting Portrait of Madame X. Juicy.
Andy Warhol: If you haven’t yet read Andy Warhol’s Diaries, I urge you to do so. It is an incredibly good guilty pleasure, but admittedly more about his astonishing life and times than it is about art per se. Studio 54, champagne parties and his infamous studio filled with people like Basquiat and Edie Sedgwick. I want to hear about it all.
Marina Abramovic: I have actually met Marina Abramovic, from my time with Lisson Gallery, but I’d love to have a proper catch up with her over dinner. A conceptual and performance artist, her work explores body,endurance, and feminist art – and particularly the relationship between the performer and the audience. Her 2010 exhibition at the MoMa saw her seated silently with over 1,000 individual members of the public, many of whom were moved to tears. I happen to know she is also hilariously funny though…
Clare: What have been your exhibition highlights of 2021, either online or in real life? Who are the artists you are most inspired by this past year?
Jennifer: I always love going to the RA’s Summer Show, and am continually discovering amazing new artistic talent while there. This year was particularly good, with such an astonishing mix of big names and emerging stars. Artists that inspire me? There are too many to mention, across a huge variety of artistic styles. I always get inspired, and that’s why I love working in this industry so much.
Clare: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Jennifer: I think they are very important, but not only with regard to the recognition received by being nominated or winning. Putting work forward requires a continual statement of confidence, which will only build with each submission, and with each improvement. Additionally, the time and effort put into entering a competition means that each artist will evaluate and consider their own body of work in a more objective manner. It is important that an artist is able to describe and categorise their artistic points of differentiation.
Clare: What will you be looking for in the entries submitted to the competition this year?
Jennifer: At the risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, it’s the ‘X Factor.’ That perfect storm of a fabulous idea, combined with composition, style and technique. If it hits me in the gut, I know that the artist has some serious potential.
Clare: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Painting Prize this year?
Jennifer: Be yourself. I dislike seeing artists copy a ‘style’ that seems popular at any given time. Be genuinely innovative, and true to your best self and your artistic practice. That authenticity will shine through.
Clare: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Jennifer: We are really looking forward to a full year of art fairs, both at Battersea and on Hampstead Heath. In March of 2022 we will be featuring the second in our ‘Access’ series, which focuses on a specific medium within the arts. Previously we featured prints & editions, and this year will focus on the hugely popular genre of Photography. A handpicked trail of galleries will be presenting an incredible selection of both emerging and established photographers, and both our social and on-site content will help to educate visitors on how to best build a stunning photography collection. Blimey, I hope I don’t buy something.