British painter Lucy Jones, sixty-three, has spent three decades painting herself and the landscapes that have surrounded her. As she opens a new exhibition in London she reveals a new side to her practice, embracing vulnerability, both physical and emotional.

 

 

Painting in the past has often been about dominance. It’s an artist’s way to declare their vision of the world, to immortalize an idea and take ownership of what they see. When Lucy Jones first exhibited her paintings in the late 1980s, size mattered—she herself had been struck by giant Pollock paintings she’d seen in New York—and it was one way of wielding art’s big power over its viewers.

At sixty-four, Jones is more confident and comfortable in her own body than ever—and because of this, she is able to show us weakness, instability and vulnerability, physical and emotional, internal and external, personal and political, social and natural. In her lively landscapes, the result of literally digging down into the earth, we feel the vast eternal nothingness, of which we’ll someday all be part; in her self-portraits, she presents herself, candidly, unapologetically feminine and uncomfortable with fitting in. In her latest portraiture work of other people—a new direction for the artist who has solely been painting self-portraits and landscapes for three decades—she inverts the traditional commanding portrait of the authoritarian male. Her take on perennial male archetypes—father, husband, intellect, gallerist—is to give us men who are human. Accepting weakness in how she has portrayed herself allows Jones to now engage with it in others, and celebrate it in respectful brushstrokes.

The three parts of Jones’s work now form a beautiful, imperfect whole, a triangular gaze between the self, others and the viewer that comes full circle—as she hints at in her titles, she is looking at us as much as we’re looking at her. Stand next to me, Jones seems to say, and we’ll weather it out together.

As her new show opens at Flowers Gallery in Cork Street, London, Elephant publishes Awkward Beauty: The Art of Lucy Jones in association with the gallery. You can buy a copy here.

Lucy Jones: Landscape and Inscape

Until 6 July at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street, London

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