How Jessie Makinson’s carnivalesque paintings “purposely misunderstand historical imagery”

How Jessie Makinson’s carnivalesque paintings “purposely misunderstand historical imagery”

Delving even further back into history, Jessie says elements of Greek mythology also inform her work. Referencing the way in which her subjects could be perceived as “devious”, Jessie tells us that she finds the saying “Kalon Kalon” (which translates to “a beautiful evil”), and was used by the poet Hesiod to describe Pandora, particularly pertinent. “It’s terrifying to think of the first woman in Greek myths, Pandora, and later Eve in the Bible, described this way in stories so powerful and at the root of Western culture”. But, not only exploring material from the past, Jessie tells us that she also been recently inspired by Han Kang’s modern cult-classic, The Vegetarian. Particularly, the storyline which focuses on its central female character’s desire to transform into a tree and “the erotic power in the sense of an occult feminine knowledge” this image denotes.

Discussing her favourite recent work, Jessie lands on Stay here while I get a curse, a piece from her recent solo show by the same name at Lyles and King and one that recently – in collaboration with Avant Arte – has been made into Jessie’s first ever print. And, with its carnivalesque, erotic and heavily patterned quality, it certainly demonstrates all the defining facets of Jessie’s work. With its featuring of a bed scene, Jessie explains it to be directly referencing Stanley Spencer’s The Centurion’s Servant, as well as also emulating early renaissance painting. But, in the work, as well as aesthetically focusing on broad themes, Jessie also added small, subtle visual elements that tell a larger story. In amongst the hectic scene, one of the figures has its hand placed upon another head, an act Jessie included because she’s “interested in the duality of the gesture, it’s both an act of power and of care. It has obvious sexual connotations”, she continues, “and I think of it in terms of power and control and how willing a person is to have their head directed.” The next few months look set to be busy for Jessie, in mid-March she will be joining a group drawing show at the British Museum and she is currently working toward her second solo show with Francios Ghebaly in LA.

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