Jo peel is a Yorkshire-born artist who creates expressive paintings and animations of architectural structures. Often lacking people, these are the types of buildings that often go unnoticed. Peel brings these fade-into-the-background buildings to the forefront. Buildings such as tube stations, pubs, cafes, and fishmongers all have been glorified and gilded by her brush. She paints the dull greys and blues of these semi-dilapidated structures interspersed with shocking oranges and blues to give them life.
BM - Your chosen subject matter is the often ignored buildings one sees in run-down areas, what attracts you to these typically ugly subjects?
JP - Well for a start I don’t really see them as ugly, but interesting and therefore quite beautiful. The buildings I chose always intrigue me and have some sort of human history attached.
I don’t necessarily seek out run-down areas, but places that help shape the identity of where I am.
BM - The paintings also often lack people, why is this?
JP - I think that as soon as you put a person into a painting, it becomes all about them and the building becomes a backdrop. By taking the people out of a scene, the eye is then drawn to the building and this can become the focus of the image.
BM - Would you say the buildings have been personified in your paintings? For me they feel like portraits in some way.
JP - When looking at a building I try to give them some sort of humanity and imagine the personality of the space, so I guess that yes, they are portraits of buildings, rather than direct representations.
BM - How do you choose which buildings to paint?
JP - I never find it difficult to choose what to paint. Wherever I am, I walk around a lot, looking at the buildings and taking loads of photos. Normally the buildings I choose have some sort of story, or speak about their environment. My work in East London in particular was a reaction to the redevelopment happening around me and how the landscape is changing.
BM - Do you sketch the buildings themselves and then paint from sketches or do you work from photographs?
JP - Sometimes I sketch from buildings directly, but more often I take photographs and use those to create the work. I often take lots of different photographs and then make up a composition to suit me that might not actually exist.
BM - The way you paint is very fluid and free, which contrasts with the rigid forms you depict, is this an intentional device?
JP - I’m not sure how intentional or thought out it was in the beginning, but I’ve found that depicting something as rigid and straight as a building without rulers and with freehand lines gives it more character and aligns it more with a portrait or the natural environment.
BM - Were these new works created specifically for this exhibition, and if so did you paint them with the other two artists in mind?
JP - The works on show at Jealous are a collection of works made over the last few years and are predominantly taken from East London and the surrounding area.
BM - What exciting things can we expect from you in the future?
JP - I’m currently working towards a major solo show in Sheffield documenting the two twinned Steel Cities of Pittsburgh and Sheffield. Alongside paintings, drawings and a large mural in the space I have been working on a documentary made in the two cities.
I want to explore further the narratives between cities that share parallel histories and understand how this affects the people, culture and the buildings.
Jo Peel's new show ‘Cityscapes’ is a collaborative show with Anka and Ashes57 and opens today at Jealous Gallery Shoreditch.
Graphic artist Ashes 57, creates monochrome drawings rooted in the urban landscape through print and original works on canvas. Anka Dabrowska responds to feelings of displacement and notions of the outsider common to city inhabitants, combining delicate pencil work with city-found ephemera. Painter, printer and animator Jo Peel captures moments that are at once familiar and yet distant from memory, which leaves the viewer questioning their existence. This group show will take visitors on a crawl through urban city life, drawing inspiration from intimate elements of the city as a landscape, dwelling place and cultural hub.
Jealous Gallery 53 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PT