The Contemporary Art Society has gifted two works by London based artist Rachel Jones to Pallant House Gallery, Chichester and to Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne.
Jones works in the mediums of painting, drawing and sculpture. She is known for her distinctive and captivating works that blend abstraction and figuration together. A Sliced Tooth and Lick your teeth, they so clutch both emerge from a series of work called Slow teething.
Repeated titles and motifs such as the mouth and teeth are indicative of Jones’ practice, creating a relationship across her works. A Sliced Tooth is the name given to the work for Pallant House Gallery for example, but there are several other works with this title, which Jones has been using since 2020.
The body is significant in Jones’ work and in particular the mouth, which represents Blackness in a myriad of historical and socio-political forms. The mouth is an entry point to the internal part of the body used not just for the essential function of breathing and speaking. Lips can be altered and commodified. Teeth are associated with beauty and can be modified or adorned with grills, a removable decorative mouth cover associated with the hip-hop industry and made from gold, silver or diamonds. Teeth have also had a gruesome meaning in the past during the Atlantic slave trade. Many of these facets including her own identity and agency add to the complexity of the layers within her work.
A sliced tooth is a diptych that consists of two teeth with white bases, over-painted with vibrant reds and muted greys. These layers of oil pastel and oil stick are built up to create a sense of physical and metaphorical depth and the imperfect, raw-edged canvases produce works that almost resemble landscapes.
This work will join a strong collection of Modern British art at Pallant House Gallery, which has been looking to strengthen the presence of female artists who explore identity in their collections and exhibitions. Pallant House Gallery had an exhibition in 2019/20 of 20th-century female artists in Britain who engaged in progressive art and politics. Jones’ work continued this conversation, through the exploration of contemporary painting and Black history.
Lick your teeth, they so clutch uses shape, form and composition to create a tension, which Jones enhances with her balance of rich colours, from fiery reds to cool blues and greens. It is a work that will join the Towner Art Gallery’s permanent collection, with its strength in Modern British and Contemporary works. At a time when the Towner’s curators are investigating and addressing a historic lack of diversity and under representation of women in public collections, Jones’ work is a significant addition.
Rachel Jones (b.1991, London) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas (2019) and Recent group exhibitions include Galerie Thaddeus Ropac London (2020); New Art Centre, Salisbury (2019) and at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2019). Jones was awarded the André Dunoyer de Segonzac Hon RA Prize in 2019 and the Machin Foundation Painting Prize in 2018.
A Sliced Tooth, 2020 was presented to Pallant House Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society through the Rapid Response Fund, 2020
Lick your teeth, they so clutch, 2020 was presented by the Contemporary Art Society to Towner Art Gallery, 2020/21