Interview: Brit Jackson

Brit Jackson exploring the galleries of Europe with fellow tourists (Duane Hanson's 'Tourists' 1970).

Brit Jackson is in her final year at the Queensland College of Art and is currently on exchange in Wales. Her practice explores the notion of achieving female liberation through the celebration and exploration of self. Her work, with roots in mythology, critiques gender inequalities and reflects on histories while simultaneously visualising juxtaposing ideas of imagined futures. The nature and imagery of her paintings have a naive quality that pays homage to female adolescence.

From 15-21 May Brit took over our Instagram account @inresidence_ari, giving us a glimpse into her time spent on exchange in the sleepy seaside town of Aberystwyth and how her practice has been informed by her time overseas.

Interviewed by Sarah Thomson

ST: How do you think your practice has been affected by being in a totally new context i.e. on exchange in Wales, and how have your travels informed your work?

BJ: There have definitely been times when I’ve felt so homesick and isolated that I thought the inspiration would never come to me but once I settled in a little, the separation from my usual routine was actually quite refreshing. Mostly I’ve felt a sense of freedom to be able to experiment.

My travels have meant that I’ve been able to visit some of the world’s most esteemed art galleries and see some of my favourite art works in the flesh. This kind of opportunity has been priceless. Also, to experience the colours of Europe in the Spring time could never match the material I get from the internet.

ST: You have mentioned that your work critiques gender inequalities and borrows themes from mythology. Are there any particular stories or characters from mythology that you connect with?

BJ: I worked with Medusa on and off in my first and second year at QCA. Her story is so disheartening, especially when you put it in a contemporary context. I felt like she deserved a re-telling. From Medusa, I moved on to develop a body of work inspired by the stories of The Dionysian Mysteries. This is definitely my favourite mythological story. Naturally, there are many versions of the tale but basically the Dionysian cult was a group for minorities to join and drink wine and be liberated by the grape vine. I would definitely recommend Googling this one.

Brit Jackson / 'Homage to Pauline Boty (It's Not Just a Man's World Anymore)' / 2017

ST:Are there any specific feminist readings that have inspired your work?

BJ: For my latest project, I've been reading The Feminist Utopia Project edited by Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. It’s a collection of 50 essays, through which cutting-edge voices imagine a feminist future.

ST: We’ve discussed the idea of a feminist utopia and imagining idealised futures. What would that look like to you and how do you aim to represent that in your work?

BJ: I think the key to a feminist utopia is empathy. The world is dying for more empathy and compassion and I think that if we can work on this, then we’ll be heading in the right direction. It’s important to me that I do not represent any one idea in my work. I don’t think that I have the answers so I’m not trying to convince anyone that I do. I just hope that my work will start discussions (about a feminist utopia, for example) and through conversation maybe we can teach each other a thing or two.

Brit Jackson journal extract / Instagram post / 2017

ST: During your takeover you gave us a glimpse into your process by showing some extracts from your journal. What is your process for creating a work and how important is journaling for you?

BJ: Journaling is everything for me. I consider research just as important as the painting, so my journal is where everything comes together. Generally, I will begin by reading. I develop a concept and educate myself a little on the themes that I’d like to explore. Then I’ll do a lot of sketches and scout images in developing a kind of visual narrative. My paintings usually begin with collages on Photoshop and the plan will always change ten times before I have a finished work.

Brit Jackson / A Longing for Far-off Places / 2017

ST: Your work is often very colourful and has a naïve quality. Stylistically, what are some of your influences?

BJ: I’m very influenced by the female adolescent experience. My work is kind of a homage to my teenage years. It’s about reclaiming ‘girliness,’ and about visualising that confusing period (which I’m still very much existing in) where we’re trying to figure out who we are as opposed to who we’re told to be. My style also just comes down to the fact that I’m drawn to bright colours and have a very amateur painterly manner (which I revel in).

ST: What have been some of your favourite artworks you’ve seen while you’ve been overseas?

BJ: Earlier in the year I went to the Guerrilla Girls exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery and the David Hockney one at Tate. Both of which were fantastic. Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure was a definite highlight! I waited all day and stood in line for an hour to see her but it was worth it! At Musee d’Orsay I saw Alexandre Cabanel’s and William Bouguereau’s versions of The Birth of Venus. Musee d’Orsay is full of classics so that was a big day. Some of my favourite visits have been to The Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk in Amsterdam, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, and The KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. I also went to Museum Insel Hombroich in Germany, which was like a spiritual experience. Museum Insel Hombroich is certainly worth a trip, and if you find your-self there then you should definitely stop by the Langen Foundation!

Jordan Wolfson / Female figure / 2014 / At exhibition Jordan Wolfson: manic / love / truth / love 27 Nov 2016 - 23 Apr 2017 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

ST: Would you say that social media has influenced your work and how? (ie. tumblr, Instagram)

BJ: Definitely. I get a lot of my inspiration from Instagram and I still keep an active Tumblr blog as a kind of storage space for imagery. The Internet has played a large role in the development of my work. For one, it is endless inspiration at your fingertips. But also, since being overseas, this intangible domain has paradoxically provided a sense of place and inclusion for me. Without this, I probably would have struggled to create work that makes me happy!

Brit Jackson / Aphrodite Learns Empathy / 2017

ST: A lot of your work takes the form of paintings. How do you view painting’s place in contemporary art and are there any other mediums that you like to work in?

BJ: I think painting is just as important now, in a contemporary art scene, as any other medium. (Of course, I admit that this statement is bias). I think as long as painting can inflict a sensation or create a discussion then it is relevant and it is thriving.

I’m also very interested in installation art so going forward I would like to experiment a little more in this field, with the inclusion of my paintings.

ST: What are your plans for the future and where can we see more of your work?

BJ: I plan to finish my bachelor at QCA and after that, I’d like to go on to study honours. Besides this, I plan to keep exploring new concepts and continue to break down patriarchal boundaries.

I'm currently in the process of building a website but watch my Instagram (@__bbrit) for details to emerge.

Brit Jackson took over the In Residence Instagram May 15-21, 2017. Keep up with our Instagram Takeovers, news, events and new posts via @inresidence_ari