18/01/14JD artist's website represents one of those rare finds, a hidden jewel deep in cyberspace. Having found it I was more than keen to share, so I was delighted when JD agreed to this review. I first encountered JD as a seriously talented blogger, whose elegant and wittily understated way with words put them in my mental category of 'writer'. What a lesson in the perils of boxology! I'm fast learning that alternative neurologies and the talents such wirings bestow are often brilliant and multiple.
I must first explain that JD is an autistic and transgender artist whose work transcends the the bounds of creative expression.
"...my art explains me..." JD
My first observation is that JD is an artist whose website is without a statement. What?! This immediately places the work in an exciting and unusual space. In this word rich world of contemporary art charged with the post post modern task of tying itself in explanatory knots here is an artist who simply invites the viewer to rest the eye on a beautifully laid out grid of perfectly polished pieces to click on for closer viewing. Not that words are entirely absent - no. In fact words can be found everywhere, in pithy titles and within the canvas in many instances, and it's particularly in JD's intricate use of text woven within some works that I am reminded of where I began with JD as a stylish wordsmith.
I have to say that I find the purely visual presentation of the website refreshing, powerful and intriguing. A visual thinking style combined with deep immersion in their process renders verbal explanations awkward for JD. Neurology drives an insistence on visual engagement. Here the art explains itself, it even explains the artist. I feel there is much the wordy neurotypical art world could learn from this.
Close inspection of the works reveal many twists and turns in emotion and mood together with a playfulness I recognise from the blog. At times JD appears to tackle complex and quite serious ideas, seeming to marry word and image seamlessly in works such as Insurrection. In others the use of stencil, spray paint, pens and pencil speak of a love for the language of pop and street art in works such as Year of the Dog (2010) and Colour Your World (2010). Che (2009) takes the iconic image of Che Guevara and layers media, colour, image and text in a gorgeously rich and balanced work of great sophistication both in terms of composition and technical skill. The Girl from Goiânia (2009) is a personal favourite. I'm drawn to the way JD has treated the canvas, distressing the surface to the point of tenderness rendering an agedly beautiful patina which plays against the extraordinary control shown in the line of drawn and painted-in profile and lettering. This feels like a loving hand at work and I am minded of the hours such intricate work entails to reach this level of balance. Working smooth lines into rough surfaces is no mean feat and I sense more than a hint of the perfectionist here. JD describes a desire to master certain techniques and a tendency to lock onto stencil art, for example, as a soothing repetitive activity until JD feels expert, setting marathon cutting tasks in acts of self challenge.
"...making art is my way of being social..."
JD is drawn to representational art and told me that they are fascinated by faces and "that elusive quality 'others' seem to have when interacting and communicating with one another". This or an idealised and fleeting version of it can be captured on canvas. This kind of connectedness can seem unattainable to some autistics but for JD art is a mediator. Art processes provide both the solitude that is craved, and yet the relationship with an audience the finished works bring enable a connectedness to others, JD's own way of being social.
I'm struck by how elegant and viable this way of being social is. JD's interest in faces and also in the relationship between owners and their pets (dogs especially), leads to the thought that creating portraits by commission could be a future direction. Given the level of commitment to her the work any sitter would be lucky indeed.