Jo Sheppard

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Artist Statement

Neither abstract nor traditional landscape art, my work is perhaps best described as 'non-figurative', focusing on mood and ambience rather than literal subject matter. Not well traveled during childhood, it was during my degree that I first visited Europe, and it was very much a life changing experience. What unfolded was an obsession with light and the playfulness of colour found around the Mediterranean.

Over the years I have chosen to focus on architectural detail rather than the grand vista, my intention being to engage viewers to focus on the details which are used to build a bigger picture. Fundamentally I find beauty in things that are commonplace. I feel greatly inspired by the beauty of patina, and how environments are affected by the elements. I see beauty in deterioration, the finest example being the crumbling facades of Venice. In my work, I invite viewers on a journey through light and texture. I wish for them to initially try to work through a complex layering of materials and to realize the beauty within the ordinary.

My style of working demonstrates an enthusiasm that goes beyond material; spatial awareness, movement, atmosphere created by colour, light, tactile texture, the use of icons and symbolism which raise personal questions. A commonly used compositional technique includes the juxtaposition of large, loose colour washed areas with tighter, realistic features and embellishment. Icons and symbols are also used to add focal points and force questions to arise. I feel most comfortable working large but produce work of all scales with equal passion and attainment. I also like to work on several paintings at once to ensure a continuity and freshness.

The majority of my oil paintings are created on canvas using colour washes, overlain with areas of impasto. The initial stages of a canvas is akin to action painting, taking controlled risks - the physical process of working with poured washes, dripping and splashing is unpredictable at worst but revelatory at best. Recreating surfaces such as stone, for example, creates possibilities to exploit the use of a variety of techniques and materials, such as sand, wax, and sgraffito. I have found that producing mixed media works creates further depth to my work and provides yet another layer that serves to form a whole.

In terms of influential artists, I very much admire the deep, spiritual and symbolic work of Anselm Keifer and the textural richness of Antoni Tapies. Aware of the benefits of critical awareness, I also take inspiration from a wide range of work ranging from Renaissance to contemporary artists.

Within each of us lies a layering of personalities which we can either show or allow to remain hidden. By creating an image where the layering of materials is integral to its beauty, the work can be interpreted differently depending on the personal experience of the onlooker. In all of my work I challenge the viewer to go beyond the visual representation of images and artifacts and to make comparisons with their life and moods.

As time progresses I find myself moving gradually towards abstraction, but presently find myself motivated with the explorations and discoveries which will lead the way.

Jo Sheppard



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