Jessica K Ballantyne is a painter ever inspired by the transformative nature of the body and mind.
In Jessica’s words: “the series I am currently working on is ‘Animal in You’ which is based around inkblots and subjective experience. This was created during lockdown, the artworks are about subconscious symbolism and the meaning we can find through self-exploration and conversation with others. They are collaborative and I’ve had 20 commissions from people all over the world, who want to interpret an inkblot and work with me to create an oil painting based on their vision.”
‘Cosmic Whale’ (2020), oil on canvas
Since I began making art in a more focused and intentional way (probably at the age of 17) I have been using the making process as a therapeutic tool to heal emotional/psychological pain. Although in the beginning of my artistic endeavours I was unaware of the cause of my great elation and comfort that would wash over me as I painted, as I matured I came to rely more and more on the creative process as a mechanism for overcoming overthinking ( emotional pain) as well as physical pain ( I suffered from chronic migraines all through my teens and 20s. ) I use my painting as a form of therapy to still my mind. The creative process also acts as a painkiller. So, it helps with recovery and resilience for sure.
My art always reflects my present state of mind and so is always a response to the time I am living. Although subtly, I can’t help but include my thoughts and feelings relating to politics and world events in my artwork.
Recent events have definitely influenced my work and practice. I lost my part time teaching job and so had to find a way to survive which forced me to come up with creative solutions to connect more to people and to potential viewers and collectors. Since lockdown I find that I am more communicative and use online platforms a lot more, doing interviews and emailing people and collectors back and forth. I felt that it was important to engage in active listening and talking and found the process really enjoyable, even necessary for both myself and my collectors. I learnt a lot about myself during that time.
The different series I’ve made throughout the years all focus on different personal stress or traumas in my life. My most recent series Animal in Me and Animal in You was a response to a relationship breakdown and an attempt to release negative, compulsive thinking- which worked!
‘Critical Dissection’ (2020), oil on canvas
So the Making Effect to me, is the ability to get into a meditative state- or creative zone- where thinking halts and you become present to yourself in a way that feels absolutely wonderful, where there is no pain, no thinking, no identity and you become pure being.
My work deals primarily with psychology and subjective experience. As I am in the world, I feel I can’t help but relate to broader cultural themes. There is a lot of uncertainty and crisis in the world and I think my work reflects that. ‘Animal in You’, is based around what the viewer sees in an inkblot, which I then bring out in oil paint. I’d like people to be affected by my work, to take part in the process of self-discovery and to be open to be changed.
I definitely feel that my work has matured as I have matured. I used to feel extremely angry about women’s position in the world. At university I learnt about feminism and was struck by how women were being presented as objects of desire in the media. I have a much broader view of history now and have read more widely on the subject and feel that although I was focused on the objectification of women, what I was ultimately concerned about was my own experience and how to make it not only more bearable but I wanted to overcome the very source of my anger, which was not found externally in the world but inside my own head. It was revelational when I realised that I had the power to change the way I thought and felt. That I had the power to transcend my own identity.
Jessica K Ballantyne
Images supplied by the artist. Curation by Dr Linden Wilkinson.
Featured image: ‘Animal in me inkblot Rosarch oil painting circular painting no.9’ (2020), oil on canvas.