Why the world is about to take notice of groundbreaking young artist Rachel Jones

·3-min read
Photo credit: Emma Hardy
Photo credit: Emma Hardy

If you haven't yet heard of Rachel Jones, the creator of our 2021 Bazaar Art cover, you soon will. The 29-year old creative has long been a favourite of the art crowd but is poised for widespread acclaim thanks to her inclusion in a landmark show this month at the Hayward Gallery. Jones has been selected among 30 artists, including our Bazaar Art guest editor Lubaina Himid, in Mixing It Up: Painting Today; a riotous celebration of the medium and its power to speak to the present moment. Three of Jones' works will be exhibited and one, lick your teeth, so they clutch (2021), is the bold and beautiful image reproduced on our cover.

Jones was born in London in 1991 and says, though she frequently fought against this impulse, she always wanted to paint. She completed her BA Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art and achieved her MA Fine Art at Royal Academy of Arts, where her work moved from figurative to abstract, while still maintaining its focus on the Black experience.

To support her art, she once had a part-time job in an organic bakery in Clapham, working at a farmers’ market at the weekend. She now works from a studio of her own in Essex and is represented by Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, where she is exhibiting a selection of works from 20 November to 8 January 2022. She has also been shown at The Sunday Painter and institutions such as the Royal Scottish Academy. In 2019, she was artist in residence at The Chinati Foundation and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in 2016. Her first artwork to be offered at auction was A Sliced Tooth at Phillips London in 2021.

In our Bazaar Art issue, she sits down with curator and critic Rianna Jade Parker to discuss her motivations, her practice and the messages of her art, as well as the unique challenges of being a Black female artist. "I learned a lot about how to interrogate my own thoughts and feelings through my practice, in a way that I hadn't before," she says, of her time at art school. "I was trying to centre my experience as a Black woman in a space that is predominantly white and, ultimately, not designed for me to thrive."

Time and again, Jones' art explores the complexities surrounding society’s reading of the Black body. In her bold strokes and abstract representations, she elicits cultural conversations and seeks to dismantle existing power structures and perceptions. Her work is colourful for a reason, she says, using it to form a visual language as a substitute for words.

"I'm interested in exploring identity politics in a way that is more experiential," she tells Rianna Jade Parker. "The human figure may come in later, but for me it's more about using space, line, depth and material to stimulate a sensory and bodily reaction in the viewer."

While we prepare to hear a lot more from this groundbreaking young artist, she herself is gearing up for a future in teaching. She is currently studying for a postgraduate certificate in academic practice, art, design and communication. She says she has always taught in some capacity, as a volunteer for the charity Action Space, which supports young adults with learning difficulties, and where she ran art workshops, but is now excited to formalise her experience.

"Teachers have a social responsibility... and I have a social-justice lens to my art practice," she says. "It's so important and beneficial for students to have a person of colour teaching them... I want to be a representative for them."

Rachel Jones is at Thaddaeus Ropac in London from 20 November to 8 January 2022. 'Mixing it Up: Painting today' is at the Hayward Gallery until 12 December. To read Rachel Jones in conversation with Rianna Jade Parker, see Bazaar Art, free with the November issue, out now.

Photo credit: Rachel Jones
Photo credit: Rachel Jones


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