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Artist Talks: Jess Russell

I first met jess when I was on my Foundation. I really admire how she is able to make the mundane interesting. She looks beyond the obvious route when expressing her work. She is always working with exciting and unexpected media. I find how she manipulates these and turns them into art very inspiring. She is currently working on a personal project titled ‘mother’ and is looking for contributors to her Zine. Find out more about this at the end of the post.

What’s the major theme that runs through your work?

The most noticeable one to me is an appreciation of everyday things. Most of my works seem to be about drawing attention to the overlooked, the mundane and the discarded aspects of very normal environments, and suggesting that they be re-evaluated. I think the most commonplace objects are often the most interesting because you wouldn’t expect them to be. Beauty and value can be found everywhere if you are curious and questioning in the way that you approach the world.

What artists inspire you?

Two of my favourite artists are Cornelia Parker and Katie Paterson. They both make very powerful and intellectual works using familiar, everyday objects, which really resonates with my way of thinking. I consider their works to be incredibly beautiful, but in a conceptual way that makes you think about the strange curiosities of the Universe and of our relationship with the material world. I’m also often inspired by many artists whose work I don’t even particularly like; I watched a BBC documentary on Jeff Koons the other day, and found his acute passion for what he does really motivating.

What opportunities has studying at university given you?

So many! There are the opportunities to learn practical skills like casting and print-making and welding etc. which I probably wouldn’t have sought out otherwise. Last year I learnt how to design and cast medals in bronze for the British Art Medals Society, which was a pretty unique experience. Then there are the opportunities to learn from people who I would never have met back in Surrey, where I am from. My understanding and opinions on art, and on everything else, have been stretched enormously by meeting people and taking in their views and experience.

How would you describe your working method?

As I often focus on commonplace objects or environments, I find it easiest to work in response to a space. The site, with all its unique properties, comes first and the ideas follow.  I also went to a lecture by the artist Simon Fujiwara earlier in the year, and was really inspired by his approach to working; he explained how research doesn't have to explicitly link to producing work, but it helps you to carry new sensitivities into everyday life, which makes the ideas process more spontaneous. At the moment I’m reading a book about the science of vision and it has made me think a lot more deeply about how we perceive our surrounding environment. Having these ideas in mind has sparked a whole load of plans for future works.

How much has your work changed since doing your Foundation?

Really quite dramatically! In foundation I was only really focused on the physical process of making work and gave little thought to why I was making it or what it might mean. I spent a lot of time experimenting with materials and learning how they could be worked and manipulated. Now I am more interested in the connotations of materials and have a much more conceptual approach.

What's the best exhibition you've been to?

Such a tricky question… I’m not sure about the best exhibition but one that I think about quite a lot is Martin Creed’s ‘What’s the Point of It?’ retrospective at the Southbank Centre. I’ve always thought he was really cool, but found a whole new understanding of his work after experiencing the exhibition. I also just love the thought of people going there for a nice, cultural, family day out and then being confronted by his ‘Sick Film’ (vido of people vomiting) or lump of blu-tac on the wall.

Jess is currently looking for submissions for her zine and project titled 'mother'. The brief is pretty open and you can interpret this through writing, art and doodles etc. There is more information about this on her website. All the details can be found at:!mother--zine/cqum
Jess also has instagram @Jessruss22 where she uploads new work! 


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