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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH JENNIFER GOODMAN

Jennifer Goodman’s painting practice is a detailed investigation into colour and composition. Her work is informed by an acute understanding of linear and geometric abstraction, modernism and colour theory. Jennifer’s rich, vibrant works are constructed from a unique combination of hues which are all hand-mixed in the studio. We took some time out to visit her in the studio when she was nearing the completion of her newest body of work, Further to Fly, and share her insights here.

GS: It is always a pleasure to visit your studio in Melbourne. In the lead up to your upcoming exhibition, we are keen to share some insights with our audience that reveal some ‘behind the scenes’ insights. Many artists’ studios we’ve visited are filled with shelving, palettes, brushes and feel like a lot like organised chaos. Yours is not like that at all!
JG: Artists’ studios vary enormously. I’m lucky enough to have a purpose-built studio in our back yard. Its white walls and pale grey floor provide an ideal neutral space. Its environment is solitary. I find painting to be a solitary passion. I require clarity of mind, quiet, solitude, peace and time spent in order to tune in to my work.

GS: Your studio layout with its neat trolleys of coloured paint in bowls suggests that you have a regular routine. What does a working day look like for you?
JG: Each artist works in their own idiosyncratic way but this is what happens in my studio… it may sound extreme!
I use my understanding of colour theory, when mixing paint. My colour choices are intuitive, instinctive, individual and personal. Although I have over one hundred tubes of oil paint of various colours and shades lined up on my table, it is extremely rare for me to use paint straight out of the tube, as it never seems to match the shade and tone that exists in my mind’s eye. I mix my paint to get the specific hue that’s a perfect match to what I imagine.
As I mix up the paint, I record the recipes of colour mixing for each painting. I keep a diary noting, not quantities, but the groupings of pigments that go into making up each colour. This works as a reference for when I’m developing a painting that bounces off another, or for other future work.
I usually have around forty but may have as many as eighty individual shades in a single painting, each being painted on the canvas in a defined area of solid colour. To make things easier and more orderly, I’ve developed my system of bowls and the trolleys that they sit on. As I mix the paint for use, each individually mixed colour is contained in a palm sized ceramic bowl. Having as many as eighty individual shades in a single painting means that I may have up to eighty individual bowls that represent each painting.
As I consider my practice, I totally accept that all this may sound unusual, pedantic and even extreme, but to me it’s totally normal and integral to my way of working.

GS: Tell us about your studio time and what it is you are trying to achieve in this space.
JG: My studio time involves my intimate engagement with ideas, inspiration, process and materials. It is the battle of trying to transform my emotions and sensory experience into a visual form.
I’m inspired by sublime beauty and unapologetically strive towards it in the studio, where I try to create that exciting state.
I’m aware that my finished resolved works can appear effortlessly harmonious, yet they are the result of many weeks and sometimes months of considered work and struggle. It is a journey of much thought and problem solving, with slow progressions and subtle changes. It’s a process that I refer to as the Silent Transformation, where the depth and subtlety of the work is revealed slowly with time spent. I feel it’s this complexity that allows the work to keep giving over time.

GS: On the desks in your studio are hundreds of fragments of cut paper stacked in neat piles. Can you share with us the role that they play in your work?
JG: I use bought coloured paper a lot, both when planning my work and when problem solving. It’s both a medium I use, and a support to my paintings, and has been instrumental in my investigation of colour relationships.
I can test colour combinations with paper. To me it is like a found object. The colour is found. It’s existing hues haven’t been mixed to match that colour chart in my head, so being forced to use what’s available, kick starts me out of my comfort zone and encourages my palette to broaden.

 GS: You mentioned that your paintings evolve slowly over time and on occasion, you work on them for many months. That being the case, how do you know when a painting is finished?
There is a particular pendulum of thought and activity, building up momentum as I work on each piece. The work is finished when that pendulum slows and becomes still.

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