Jadé Fadojutimi, one of the most exciting British artists of the moment, talks to Twin about evolving perspective, widening your mind, and painting the indescribable
“I feel like painting involves the body so much, when I am making my works I paint by touch, and I feel like if I am not loose, if I can’t even move, how can you paint? I have to jump sometimes to reach my paintings, and sometimes I think, do I want to jump or do I want to leap? Dancing is a big part of how I am in the studio.”
An artist whose mighty postulations of abstract expressionism have seen her enter the Tate Britain collection, hold solo a exhibition at Pippy Houldsworth gallery and prepare for solo shows at ICA Miami and the Hepworth gallery respectively in 2021, she has even starred in the SS21 Loewe campaign (maybe not the apex of her career, but a highlight nonetheless). Jadé Fadojutimi is a British artist of exceptional charisma and confidence, buoyed by an acute perspective of the world in front of her and the world beyond she captures on her canvas.
She can paint with a hyper acceleration, an abstract understanding of the paint and its placement played out in her head. Jadé sees the sublime in the everyday, which was only heightened during the year of 2020.
“I am curious how my art would have changed, had the pandemic not happened, because I think it has really propelled my art and my excitement and my thinking and my materials a lot faster than I would have thought it would, probably because I had so much time by myself. One thing I think the pandemic did for me is, we had new things to be thinking about. I really see my paintings as myself, and myself as my paintings, and I really feel they both inform each other. Because my life had drastically changed, I couldn’t continue the things that I had been making.”
“I operate in extremes:
I can’t feel anything lightly.”
An appreciation of the subtle, Jadé found herself feeding off new sensations, leading to her extensive exploration of pastel in her work. A lack of distraction from the outside world that allowed her to see her immediate surroundings in a new light.
“The feeling of the sublime of the ordinary, in the everyday. I had this growth of appreciation. I was taking more from nature than I have ever been before. I was questioning as a result, what’s important about, say this plant, that is evoking this kind of memory, this heartache.”
Discovering the possibility within a set of oil pastels, they unleashed a new opportunity for expression at a time when not only a new direction was being enforced, but the necessity for a whole new way of thinking.
“I had this wonderful moment of picking them up and just moving my hands back and forth. It’s like letting a tap of your own thoughts come out. You don’t know why but you know you just need to move. Being able to see more, and appreciate more, notice more, for me personally I always like to take a step forward, but I felt like I had stepped off a cliff into the river and I had to swim in a new way. It was really exciting, you know.”
Finding her palette and mind opened up to new possibilities, she swiftly went and purchased a big box of new pastel colours, at the same time discovering different colour changes in everyday life she had never had or taken the time to notice before. As she focussed on the potential of the pastels she found her work morphing into a new intensity of colour.
“I spent one month intimately drawing with pastels, so when I went back to the studio, I felt I didn’t want to pick up a paint brush. I don’t think you need a paint brush to paint either, so I started drawing with pastel directly on to my canvasses, which created this wonderful closeness with the way I draw. From drawing on to the pastels, it made me feel more comfortable painting again too. Now I have something new and fresh to play with, and I love moments of play in the studio. I feel like my paintings became a bit intense, colour wise, in a good way.”
While she was discovering this new way of expression, a widening of her mind was playing on her thoughts. Notions of insanity, of intense experience, of feeling everything so truly, madly, deeply. Is insanity a state of no return, or is it simply an open state of mind?
“I think that I have been feeling recently that I am going a bit insane, but that’s ok. Sometimes I question why I avoid it. If you feel like you are seeing more, thinking more, and it feels outside of the norm, why does that translate as you are going crazy? I would say that I am appreciating my mind a lot more. I am embracing it a lot more, and I am not afraid of it slipping into all sorts of thinking and I feel like that’s what really changed my work the most. I think we all have boundaries in our thoughts, and I always felt that I have a large open space in the way I think, but I do feel like my boundaries dissolved, in terms of thinking. I could think of anything and still stay sane at the same time. I am going to let that mental fragility go into these works, which made me feel a lot stronger, through this process.”
Is this idea of mental embrace actually just her ability to feel bigger than most?
“My friends used to call me the crazy one, but I feel like I have always been really emotionally overfilled. That it is always seeping out. I just operate in extremes: I can’t feel anything lightly. I was always this well of emotions as a person. Then a pandemic happens! Imagine being the person that needs another one of themselves to put more emotions in because I can’t quite contain it all! But that is what makes the paintings more wonderful. This double, if not triple exponential way of experiencing. I was also experiencing love too. I was in this pandemic with my partner, and not only was I experiencing fear, I was experiencing love intensely as well. I feel like when I look at the paintings, the ones I am making now, they feel so excited by life. They feel energised by so many moments at once, and kind of electrify me in a way.
Looking at Jadé’s work, be it the mighty 2 metre high ‘I Present Your Royal Highness’ that sits in the Tate Britain collection, or a small drawing she has pinned in the studio, the paintings seek to paint the indescribable. None, however, are straightforward translations of one emotion over another. The overwhelming saturation does not create one clear sensation; moreover, they are a crashing coalition of both something that is both fully there and an undulating subconscious.
“I think in moments when I am painting... I am aware and unaware at the same time. I think it is so much at the same time that I cannot process. It is so much at the same time. I think that is what it is like when I am painting. I really succumb to the experience, but I am consciously painting. I paint in my head, in a weird way. I will spend my time running through continuations of whatever I have started in the studio, and it should then just come naturally. It is like a weird trance, that is the only way I can describe it. Some people meticulously plan a painting, I don’t do that. I wait for when I need to get up and work. Maybe there is a colour I am obsessed with in my head and has made me see the start of a painting.”
The thing is with Jadé’s works, these are not abstractions – each painting is her impression of her own reality. Having called her more monumental canvasses ‘environments’, or her smaller works portals into her mind, they signalled places in which she could exist. In that sense, the paintings are also reflections, as not only are they these enveloping spaces, they are also mediums for the habitation of nostalgia too.
“One thing I have always felt is the idea of displacement, and what it means to belong somewhere. Is that possible? Can you really belong to a place or do you just need to belong with yourself. Everytime I make a work, this is part of my world.”
Fitting that ‘I Present Your Royal Highness’ was included in the Tate Britain exhibition Walk Through British Art, within the Identity and Belonging curation. If her works are environments and translations of her reality, has Jadé cultivated her own space?
But for a minute when I am with them I am there. I don’t know how to describe it but they feel like that sense of belonging I get from creating a work is because they self-gratify me in that moment, and that painting is me in a different moment. All these places are places in which I exist, or translate reality through. That is why I believe to really belong is to be with yourself.”
She feeds off her space, taking inspiration continuously from her surroundings – “my physical environments are as important as my painted environments” – and presenting what we can only take as bright and bold universes. If 2020 has been a colour for her, what has it been? “Electric blue!”
So overall an illuminating year perhaps?
“There is always two sides to the coin, so 2020 for me has been about perspective.
I like to find good things wherever they are available and embrace them.”