Rachel Jones’ latest body of expansive canvases at Chisenhale Gallery, London beams with colour and complexity. A continuation of her ongoing exploration of semi-visible teeth, Jones’ newest paintings feel as much like expressionistic landscapes as they do depictions of technicolour jaws.
From afar, each work is distinguished by rippling squiggles and semi-circular outlines, a technique made possible by Jones’ signature use of oil stick and oil pastel to create her compositions – as much drawings as they are paintings. Moving closer to the works, one experiences an effect similar to that of gazing out of an aeroplane window as it nears the earth, watching as an abstracted web of lines clarifies itself into roadways and rivers, eventually dotted with the skittering ants that are automobiles and sailboats. It is easy to linger endlessly on small regions of the canvas, to find oneself utterly absorbed in a particular intersection of colours – the specific bleed of turquoise into ochre, clash of cobalt into magenta, or hissing simmer of lavender into lime.
As important as it is to step back and regard the complete topography of each canvas, it is equally essential to consider the room as a whole, and to listen to the dialogue that is audible between each of Jones’ chattering mouths. This conversational effect is further facilitated by the use of a free-standing wall towards the entrance of the gallery, which maintains the openness of the room while allowing the viewer’s eyes to bounce like a pinball between the vibrant works dotting the window-lined exhibition space. The uniform titling of all the works, ‘say cheeeese’ (homonymous with the exhibition title), also nods to Jones’ emphasis on the collective importance of a body of paintings, though this by no means detracts from her treatment of each work as a distinct world in and of itself.
In this sense, Jones has accomplished the difficult feat of mastering both the micro and the macroscopic, though she carries her skilful grasp of the relative qualities of colour, line, and form with a joyous nonchalance. Similarly, the intermingling of stretched and free-hanging canvases is expressive of a dexterous informality. Jones’ brilliance lies in her ability to simultaneously impress the viewer with the evident artistry of her works, while also offering up her canvases as unconfined realms meant to be laid in and played in.
Jones’ show at Chisenhale Gallery is the latest in a string of successes. A young, English painter, she recently presented a a solo exhibition of works at Thaddaeus Ropac’s London gallery, titled ‘SMIIILLLLEEEE’ (2021), and was included in the group show ‘Mixing It Up’ at Hayward Gallery (2021), in which her works had a similar focus on colourfully camouflaged grins.