Lucy Jones

Born 1955 London, England

Biography

Lucy Jones is known for her self-portraits and vibrant landscapes. She studied at Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting (1974–6), Camberwell College of Art (1976–9), and the Royal College of Art (1979–82). Jones began to paint herself whilst recipient of a scholarship to the British School in Rome (1982), initiating a career-long series of self-portraits that document her experience of living with cerebral palsy. This impairment affects movement, balance and co-ordination. Jones’ early self-portraits document her experience of feeling as though she were ‘split down the centre’, with one side of her body operating out of sync with the other. Over time, these portraits have gradually unified as the artist has become more accepting of and confident with her condition. Knowledge of colour theory – including contrast, tone, and making spectrums and charts – informs her practice, contributing to the emotional and psychological intensity of these works. Jones also uses bold colours in her landscape paintings of London. The city is depicted as unpopulated and ordered but is given an energetic liveliness through vibrant colour. More recently, Jones has been painting other people and the landscapes nearby her current home of Ludlow.

Artwork Information

The vibrant colours used for the self-portrait Lucy Jones (1987) reflect the artist’s training in colour theory. Unusual for a self-portrait, the cobalt blue hair paired with cardinal red reflects the artist’s own interest in maintaining tonal intensity. Character is conveyed through the direct and glaring stare of the artist. Jones’ impairment has necessitated her use of a frame to support her to walk and stand upright. Self-portraiture serves as an opportunity to ‘reverse the gaze’ – staring back at passers-by who fixate on her visible disability.

The setting for the self-portrait is split into two through contrasting colour, to suggest a shift of plane from wall-to-wall, or from wall-to-door. In this space, the subject is depicted in greater intensity, open for the psychological scrutiny of the viewer. Alternatively, the split background could suggest her self-portraits ‘coming together’, itself a reconciliation with the incremental and often frustratingly slow process of painting. She describes how ‘the making of a self-portrait, if undertaken seriously, is an oddly testing experience, not in any technical way, but psychologically. It pulls one all ways, turning in on oneself self-consciously even while that dispassionate scrutiny supervenes’.