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say cheeeeese (2022)

© Rachel Jones Photo credit: Eva Herzog





Oil, Oil pastel, Canvas


12.5 x 32.5 cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society with the support of the Chipperfield Bequest Fund, 2023/24

Ownership history:

Purchased from Thaddaeus Ropac, London by the Contemporary Art Society, with the support of the Chipperfield Bequest Fund, 2023; presented to Southampton City Art Gallery, 2023/24
Through her curated explosions of colour, Rachel Jones’s paintings translate abstract, existential concepts into something visual and visceral. Her paintings traverse entire spectrums of colour, while ensuring balance and moments of visual rest. Layered and complex, her mark-making maintains a sense of immediacy and experimentation, reflecting her journey and progress in attuning herself with her palette. Jones often alludes to half-formed shapes that prompt viewers to search for familiar objects or bodily features - such as teeth, lips or flowers - but ultimately these elements dissolve back into abstraction. Within her diverse artistic practice, which also includes installation, sound and performance, Jones addresses the interiority of the Black body and what it feels like to be observed in society. Thus, by providing a glimpse of familiarity within abstraction, Jones invites the audience to interpret her work based on their experiences and backgrounds.

say cheeeeese (2022) builds on Jones’s existing artistic oeuvre, repeating the motif of obscured teeth and the orifices that contain them. Only partially legible, these forms signal a multitude of both symbolic and literal entry points to the interior self. Jones’s work extends the use of teeth to incorporate bold, hand-drawn lines over dense blocks of colour. The shapes, marks and tones often clash and overlay, or sit uncomfortably side by side, creating differing perspectives. say cheeeeese invites the viewer to contemplate what emotional responses are assigned to a colour or a form – for example, to reconsider the association of red with anger, or blue with sadness, and in doing so, to explore the possibility of contrasting expressions coexisting simultaneously.

Southampton City Art Gallery houses a prolific collection of Western art, from the Renaissance to the present day, with a strong commitment to British 20th-century and contemporary paintings. The acquisition of say cheeeeese by Rachel Jones will contribute to the strength of the collection; adding to the narrative of British art across centuries, Jones’s work represents a contemporary take on the body’s relationship with the self.

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