A view of Jess De Zilva’s special series which arose from the dreadful pandemic experience capturing the deep facets of emotional life
London based painter of psychological allegories Jess de Zilva begins the creation of her paintings in the puzzlement of the pandemic.
During lockdown last year Jess de Zilva began work on the painting series ‘Things we do’ that was borne out of the pandemic experience. Using the only model she had available- herself, she describes facets of emotional life as we navigated through the chaos of the pandemic.
A triptych that shares its name with the series is the central piece.
“It describes how the absurd has entered reality. It has infiltrated our lives. Things don’t make sense. We struggle as we are left figuring out how to live. Hope is stacked up against fear and threats, truth has become a plural, love and death are closer than ever. We are lonely yet needing of more space, some find support in peculiar actions and places. In chaos we are lost and so we search. We try, step lightly, observe, examine, wonder, hide, threaten, protect, defend and hurt. The things we do externally and internally have never been so ambivalent. Yet the triptych offers openings; into obscure space where the butterflies go, along the path of the penguins, via the water behind closed curtains, through doorways and halls deeper into the painting, down a hole she tip toes across, and maybe there is still an exit upstairs? The last path is to step out to join the viewer and enter another world altogether.”
Each panel of the triptych has its own feel while the scenes spill over into each other.
The center piece ‘Beyond the gate’ measures 120cm in width. Its pictorial space is guarded by a life-sized figure wearing a mask, holding a stick and a candle. The figure reminds of a shepherd taking care of its sheep, the light emitting from the candle brings up thoughts of rituals and hope. Is access being granted? We do not know but we can watch from here.
The right panel ‘Offerings for the penguin King is smaller and focuses on the absurd. Things don’t make sense here either. Odd behavior becomes ritual when there is nothing else to hold on to.
In all of the paintings one and the same figure is featured in all ten roles, which makes the paintings even more odd. Typical for de Zilva’s paintings, there is that element of portraiture yet the work is not about her. The figures in her paintings are protagonists. She combines their poses, expressions, the settings and symbolic objects to express the allegories of what goes on in our psyche. The people she portrays are placeholders for any one of us.
“I consider my paintings psychological realism as I paint in a realist fashion and use traditional portraiture to describe psychological and intimate internal experiences.”
They come and go is the left panel. There are more butterflies here than on the other panels and blue stuff flying about also but the scene is a quiet and nearly void of people. Someone is sitting behind a wall. “This panel focuses on thoughts, space, dreams and desires.” the artist says. ”I left the painting very open, obscure and hazy, aiming to keep my own voice down for the observers’ mind to speak. The painting deals with personal space, escapism, thinking, maybe wanting to fly away with the butterflies or wondering if there are other paths to be taken.” The painting also reminds us of the empty streets and loneliness of the time, and in doing so of the contrasting wishes of others for silence.
Things we do (triptych) is painted oil on linen and measures 295cm x 85cm. The centrepiece is 120cm x 85cm. The side panels are both 85cm x 65cm.www.jessdezilva.co.uk
Follow Jess de Zilva on Instagram @jessdezilva
Hand signed limited edition prints of works are available from her website.