Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina but I have been in London for almost 5 years, I live and work here. Currently, I am finishing my MFA in Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art.
I left my country around 8 years ago and lived in different cities. I come from a background in Economics and Film, so it has been a transition of career paths for me. I have always painted and loved painting, it just took me a while to realize this is what I wanted to do every day of my life.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I think I discovered art when I was 5 years old. I remember vividly that I waited all day for my art classes at school, I even remember some drawings from back then.
Realizing that I wanted to make it myself it was at 15. Realizing that I wanted to live of this took me a bit longer, it was at 30. I always had a lot of interests and painting was one of them but I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker. Film ended up being something that I enjoy a lot, but painting is something that I want to do every day.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Right now my studio is at school. The building is at the Slade Research Centre, a whole building just for painting students in Woburn Square. Several years ago the building used to be home to the Courtauld Gallery and the feeling that such wonderful paintings have been in those studios is great. This is also right next to the Warburg Institute, an incredible library/imagery resource that focuses on cultural history and the role of images in culture. There are two parks in front of the building as well and that’s what I enjoy the most. We are located in Fitzrovia which can be a bit too crazy for me, so having the parks so close makes the whole difference.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I am currently focused on the search for telling stories with my paintings. The stories initiate from an autobiographical point of view and then take their own form by adding fantastical elements. I am interested in the intersection between memories and fantasy.
I think a lot about the creation of each one of the characters. They vary from humans to anamorphic animals to hybrid figures that can be half-human/half-animals. Through different imagery I explore themes of identity and transformation. I take inspiration from every day life observation, medieval folklore, old tales, fables and myths.
My work also has a resonance with speed of time and sense of space. I am interested in how space can be represented and what fragmentation means. We live in an era where, due to the boom technology, we seem to experience everything with extreme immediacy. In this context I explore how our own memories can affect the experience of the present moment.
What is your process like?
Before I start a painting I think about how I am going to make the composition in the way one thinks of a collage of ideas. It usually starts with a photograph or a scene I see in a movie that I enjoy and what that represents emotionally to me. I also collect images that I like looking at or that they transmit something to me. They can be anything; from my own photographs of trips and every day observation to details of paintings I see in museums all the way to images from children’s books. I then sit in the studio and focus on the ones that, at a given moment, interest me the most. I end up making a small sketch that is transformed into a painting.
When I paint I work from memory and imagination and I allow for a lot of accidents to happen. In the end, the final image always changes from the original idea. I’m a strong believer of the ‘process’ of making and not having to stick to any particular rule.
How long it takes me to finish a painting usually varies on the size. But it can take me 3 days if they are small and between 2 weeks to a month if they are big. It really varies.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Magical realism and early medieval history. I am currently reading “Labyrinths” by Jorge Luis Borges and “Tigress of Forli” (written by Elizabeth Lev); a biography of Caterina Sforza. Also, I’ve been getting deeper into the Theatre of the Absurd and Surreal Comedy. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Monthy Python’s films.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I can’t think of anything particular strange unfortunately.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work in Education for a Film and Acting school and I enjoy it a lot. Working in something that is not completely directed to art puts my mind in a different mode and, in a way, helps not to become too obsessed thinking about it 24hs. Besides it forces me to leave the studio which is sometimes is necessary.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
There are several great artists/teachers I respect at the Slade. Advice that I have received and influenced in my practice is 1) you can do whatever you want and don’t feel the need to justify it and 2) trust your own instincts and your own voice. As clichéd as that might sound it is quite hard to find that uniqueness in yourself and trust it. That is, I believe, what helps make an artwork authentic to you.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
What I said in the previous question :).
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
One of the reasons I wanted to do a Masters was that I didn’t have any artist friends or people I knew making art. Friends and teachers at the Slade have been great in terms of criticism of my own art work, art discussions and support in this industry.
What is your studio like?
My studio is at the Slade and we all have shared studios there. I am in a big room sharing walls with other 9 people.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I go every day to the studios except for Saturdays. I am fresher in the morning so I prefer to wake up early, work out and go straight from there. Since I am sharing the studio with another 40 people sometimes it can be a bit crowded during the week. But in the weekend the vibe is completely different. The studios are very quiet and that’s when I can think the better. The key for me is listening to music, otherwise I can’t concentrate. I mainly listen to classical music when I paint but sometimes I vary between rock and blues.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Very significant. I wanted something drastic to change in my practice and the way the MFA is structured helped me with that. Studio critiques, tutorials and visiting artists at the Slade helped me understand what I was looking for in my practice.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Live and work solely painting what you want to paint.
How would you define “success” in art?
Live and work solely painting what you want to paint.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I won a travel scholarship to Norway and had the chance to do some research there. Traveling has always been something that I pursue and feeds my paintings quite a lot. Having had the chance to see amazing landscapes, art exhibitions of all sorts and explore a different culture has been of great influence in my latest paintings.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I am part of a group exhibition taking place later in the year in an artist-run gallery (The Stone Space) and I am preparing for the Slade Degree show happening in June.
Find more at jazmindonaldson.com and on Instagram @jazmindonaldson_art!
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