“I love creating paintings that mesmerize with colour and energy. My inspiration is microscopic, sub-atomic and aquatic worlds.” Jacquelyn Stephens described her art. “My paintings consist of vast fields of colour and light that reflect minuscule nature and immense patterns of the universe as a kind of reflection of our souls.”
Jacquelyn has been painting for over 3 decades and is based in Melbourne. “My core purpose is to replenish and uplift emotions with my paintings. I wish to recreate for people the kind of meditative experience I get when I am immersed in creating these paintings.”
Jacquelyn has a life-long interest in science, and many of the key themes in her art derive from this interest. “I have always been interested in science, nature, and the world of medicine especially following my studies in nursing. Later, I was affected by a mysterious cellular tumour to my brain, the pathological origin of which was never discovered, this further sparked a fascination with nature, life and the universe. I am always questioning why we are here and going back to the basics. I want to explore the themes around the beginnings of life and how we are all built from same, microscopic matter.”
Her fascination for the beginnings of life has included Jacquelyn’s deep love for the sea. She was born and raised by the Bass Strait, and the sea’s presence has left a powerful impression on her. “I cannot seem to escape the influence of the sea, how all life came from there and how heavily we depend on it for existence.”
Jacquelyn’s art explores some of the most complex questions known to us, but she brings an alluring element of lightness and beauty to it. She explores the avenues of what makes life sparkle and glow, what forms the essence of life. But while doing this, she is not looking for answers, simply raising questions. “I would not want to find answers to these questions. That would be boring.”
She has described how she is not interested in painting real objects in the world but prefers to suggest or allude to things like cells, sea-life or light beams. Jacquelyn hints at objects so they remain ambiguous to the viewer. What she wants to capture is the life spark of things, the glimmer and the glow of it.
Over the three decades that Jacquelyn has been practising art, she has mastered her tools, process and materials. “I choose specific colours intuitively and because they fit the subject and I know what they can do. I know the depths and layers I can achieve with a particular pigment or medium.” Jacquelyn has a powerful relationship with her practice and a vivid, ongoing dialogue with her art.
The creative process is organic, where the painting itself is as much in control of the process as is the artist. “The colours and layers need to be soft and light. I never totally know which way things will go, but through repetition and layers and layers, the magic happens. The painting gets to a certain point when I know that it is nearly done. It is just a feeling, not a tangible thing. Call it a knowingness. This is the result of thirty years of painting? The years have fine-tuned it.”
“I spend a lot of time on the beach collecting old, broken-down plastic. I recently started sticking this on my paintings. I attach tiny fragments with epoxy, and it is usually then painted over. It is very inconspicuous, but sometimes you can see it, sometimes not. Just like microplastics are in nature, mostly invisible” she said. “It is a win for the environment as the plastic is not in the ocean anymore. It is now safely locked away in my paintings. This is my little meaningful quirk, and the magic is in knowing that the fragments are there.”
Jacquelyn is not simply an artist but an art collector as well. Her walls are filled with contemporary art collected from artist friends and family. There is plenty of her husband’s artwork too, a fine art and professional photographer. “Art is the opposite of apathy, and it makes you feel. It provokes emotions; political anger, beauty, melancholy. For me, the effect of art is bigger than the work itself; it is a mystery, sometimes something funny, a giggle and a poetic dialogue.”
Jacquelyn is currently extending her themes exploring the glow of life and light. She applies ‘Bokeh’, a photography term for the out-of-focus patterns of light, to her sea life and microscopic themes. “That challenges me. I have not perfected it, but I love working with it. And I feel that people are responding to that; for some, it represents a glimmer of hope. For others, it depicts the street lights or the glowing bioluminescence in the water.”
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