Jessica Scott can surprise with her work

Joan Sullivan
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Red Ochre exhibit features artist’s work in group show

“Grapefruit on Plate” —Submitted image

 Visual artist Jessica Scott paints with a fantastic vocabulary, a blend of natural forms and otherworldly scenes. For example, one of her works in Red Ochre’s “Another Winter’s Eve,” its upcoming group show, is “Nautilus Tree.”

This is an intricately lined, vivid green spiralling fiddlehead with tiny human figures at its roots and puffy pink blossoms at its tips. Such surprising, unexpected configurations fall under surrealism, a genre that has a specific political and psychological genesis but has broadened to include this kind of daring, shape-shifting play. It presents a realm all its own.

That’s no accident. Scott first turned to art as an escape from her “rocky” upbringing. “I would hide in my room and sketch animals and angels. I never stopped drawing, and I started painting when I was 10 – tigers, the odd horse.”

This developed into an accomplished portfolio, but, surprisingly, Scott never formally studied art. She is self-taught, and admires the work of Dali, Jacek Yerka (Poland), and Alex Grey (the US). “I did meet Robert Bateman and had one conversation with him. He told me to paint dark to light. That was wicked advice.”

She did earn a degree, from Carleton, but it is in biology. That’s where “I learned a lot of my theories, about energy, and quantum physics.”

Philosophies of physical phenomena don’t always come up during discussions about painting, but that’s very much part of the way Scott thinks and creates. She finds the idea of all forms being composed of particles, which in turn are all connected, intriguing. In one sense it explains her metamorphic subjects, where no one thing is ever just itself. They alter, and are imbued as concepts and symbols. And while such theoretically based work could be dry and inaccessible, Scott’s pieces are full of invitation and vitality.

Such qualities are also very much a part of her mindset. “Another theory I believe is that you can control your life, based on how your mind works. It’s the laws of attraction.” Positive attracts positive; negative garners negative.

Scott’s works in “Another Winter’s Eve” are all acrylic on canvas and masonite — “it’s not easy to take your time with acrylic, acrylic can be like a race: Don’t dry! Don’t dry!” – and all within the past two years.

They include “Perception”, with its teardrops and globes and coils and tendrils, which “is about how humans process what they see,” Scott explained. “They need matching patterns. So, could they not see something if they had never learned about it? It’s a deconstructive process. There could be so much more out there.”

All her works have a propulsion of imagery. The central forms often flow or thrust upwards, studded with smaller objects, like a beetle (representing the beauty of nature), or accompanied by birds (for peace and freedom).

Scott starts out with a sketch from an idea or “a question or image in my head. It could be anything — a tree on a golf course,” she says.

“While I am painting some things are added in that my mind will work up. And I add ideas about focusing on nature, and being mindful of the Earth. And keeping thoughts positive.”

Perhaps to this end she employs an optimistic palette, bright and pretty with lots of red, yellow, orange, and green, “which is my favourite colour.” She usually works on three paintings at a time, and paints every day, as much as nine hours. A work might take a week or a month or longer to complete.

As she paints without the picture set out before her, is she ever surprised by what happens? “Sometimes. A large painting can be an entity in itself. And the painting itself can be a relief, as well as intense.”

She’s currently working on a painting 4 ft x 6 ft.

(For more on Scott’s work, please see

The group show also includes Vesilina Tomova’s mixed media on paper; Vessela’s Brakalova’s mosaics; some still lifes from Renee Butler; more of Sheila Hollander’s detailed and researched history paintings; landscape paintings from Sylvia Bendzsa; and prints from Elena Popova.

“Another Winter’s Eve — The Warmth of Fine Art” continues at the Red Ochre Gallery until the end of December.

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