Julie-Ann Simpson:Like Jewels
Signed on reverse
Oil on canvas
59 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches
Julie-Ann Simpson began painting Like Jewels in early 2020. Swathes of time spent in multiple lockdowns, away from her studio, meant that the painting was worked up slowly, in energetic, focussed bursts and long interludes of reflection, before reaching its final form.
At the beginning of 2020, Simpson’s fascination with plants and their associated lore saw the artist focus on depictions of foxgloves. As the artist states, ‘medicinal, magical, folkloric uses of flowers and herbs’ have always been of interest. As the work developed, the foxgloves eventually made way for a figure to take centre stage. The flowers emerge from a corner of the composition, their upward thrust providing a directional counterpoint to the large droplets that fall downwards.
Working from the confines of her home and painting much more with watercolour, gouache and inks, Simpson was inspired by the paints’ fluidity, softness and transparency. Water, which has always permeated Simpson’s oeuvre, became much more important, as did its interaction with the figure. The droplets that cascade directionally across the surface of the painting, provide an interesting compositional device. Through simplification and repetition of form, Simpson uses the droplet shape to build a screen that complicates the painting’s surface, disrupting our view, and adding layers of both colour and of meaning. For Simpson, there was also an element of catharsis in producing imagery that can be read as either raindrops or tears.
The artist notes: ‘It wasn’t until the painting was nearly done that I recalled the birth of Aphrodite; how the spilled seed of Ouranos churned to foam in the sea and the goddess rose from it. Sometimes these occurrences happen in painting – images and stories collected over years, filter through our own experiences, morph and emerge into something new, unexpected.’
The painting certainly has a mythical, mystical atmosphere. The figure is totemic, much like a goddess, with the symbolic droplets and use of folkloric foxgloves only serving to deepen the painting’s emotive presence.
B. United Kingdom 1992
Glasgow-based artist Julie-Ann Simpson (b. 1992) graduated with a BA from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen in 2014.
Simpson is interested in exploring the porous boundaries of interior and exterior spaces, and dreams and reality in her work. She uses these supposed dichotomies as starting points for her paintings, which she then layers with ambiguity. Most recently, Simpson has looked at the interrelation between ourselves and the natural world, which she brings together with themes of ritual, memory, pleasure and language. Her paintings are characterised by their bold use of vivid colour and simplified organic forms.
Simpson’s work has been published and exhibited extensively in the UK. In 2018, she was the artist in residence at Yamanashi (AIR-Y) in Kofu, Japan. Simpson is the recipient of the Visual Arts and Craft Makers Award, Hope Scott Trust Award and RSA Guthrie Award and Medal for painting.