Jessica Palmer.qxp_Layout 1 25/04/2019 12:10 Page 2
ARTIST | INTERVIEW
Take an artist who loves a challenge. Ask them to create a painting to celebrate the independent businesses in Bath. Emma Clegg talks to Jessica Palmer, whose artwork for a new Visit Bath campaign has recently been revealed...
essica Palmer is a master of reinvention. She has worked as a bottle washer, managed a Paris cookery school, worked for an MP, worked as a producer for the BBC, has a masters degree in politics, and after gaining an illustration MA at Kingston University, she started her career as an illustrator and artist. She has run workshops in high-profile galleries, works as illustrator for English Heritage, is the illustrator of five highly successful adult colouring books and the author of a book on paper-cutting. Jessica works fluidly across different media – collage, paper sculpture, paper-cutting, digital drawing and painting – and it’s her artfulness with paper that defines her creativity. “During my MA I did a lot of cutting out in life-drawing classes – big Matisse-style cut-outs,” Jessica explains. “It occurred to me that I could use paper cutting as my USP because nobody else was teaching paper art at the time.” Jessica’s paper pieces have a strong narrative feel. Her studio is surrounded with visual stories – a three-foot, threedimensional Elizabethan lady in fine paper attire with tranches of papery gold, red hair in tightly curled paper rolls edged with a flush of orange; Chinese paper relief art where the paper is folded and teased and inked and cut to give dimension and texture; and endless boxes of work in progress spanning everything from flat cuts of lettering to twirling, expressive threedimensional paper forms. Her two-dimensional work has its own allure, as narratives emerge from a page of white paper. The process starts with a BELOW: Jessica Palmer’s painting for the Independent Bath campaign
drawing, followed by the cutting out of negative shapes. This takes some know-how, Jessica explains: “The hardest thing for people to understand is what to cut out. How to do a positive shape, how to take away and leave behind a design. Most people think you cut away what you’ve drawn. But you need to cut away the negative space.” One of these commissions was created for a local family whose garden was once a Georgian pleasure garden at the top of Lyncombe Vale. They wanted Jessica’s piece to show people having picnics and fireworks, and reflecting people from different backgrounds and social status. Every piece Jessica makes requires a practical approach to materials. In 2018 she produced a piece, Paper Maze, for Forest of Imagination by the riverside, a spiral walkway constructed from cardboard, designed for children to investigate and explore. Another cardboard construction commission was to celebrate Hampton Court’s 500th anniversary in 2014 where Jessica was asked to build a model of the palace at a scale of 20:1. “I was the first artist to be able to use the Cartoon Gallery and make things inside the house. They wouldn’t allow me to have scissors or glue, though, or even a knife at first.” Constructed at home and flat-packed in the car, the palace was then built over three days on site. On show during half term, visitors could walk into each of the courtyards and look around the buildings. “Kids came in and they drew kings and queens looking out of the window and cats and dogs, all kinds of designs, every facet was covered with it.” Jessica has most recently been working with Visit Bath, who asked her to create an artwork that reflected the indie spirit of the city. Her creation is a fictional representation of individual artisans and makers. The figures
are colourful and characterful, conjuring up that special something that makes Bath’s independents so appealing. “This project was the perfect opportunity for me to combine design, painting and a touch of collage,” says Jessica. The brief asked for a colourful, vibrant image that would spark interest in Bath’s independents. “I found a reclaimed Victorian door, and Batheaston-based framers Lark Designs framed and built a stand for the piece. The finished artwork features glass-blowing, cocktail mixing, cheese-making, bookselling and much more, with decoupaged references to traditional crafts and the history of Bath.” The artwork will go on tour in some of Bath’s independent shops and at the end of May it will be sold, with proceeds going to local charity We Get It, who provide support for people in Bath dealing with cancer. This collaboration between a local artist and our independent shops is a meaningful way of celebrating the special energy of our city. n For more about Jessica's work: jessicapalmerart.com For more information about Visit Bath’s Independent Bath campaign, go to visitbath.co.uk/independent
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