Off the back of the successful opening night of her first solo exhibition ‘Violent Harmonies’, we catch up with Jess Bush to see what makes that incredible mind of hers work…

1. Amongst other things, your work focuses strongly on the impact we as
human have on our natural environment. What do you hope people take
from viewing your pieces?

Making these paintings was an attempt to understand and unpack my own feelings about the natural systems around me. I liken it to the painful and intoxicating feeling of being in love with another person. A mixture of euphoric bewilderment, lust, of fitting together perfectly, of deep gratitude and then guilt and remorse for the pain and destruction I have no doubt caused just by existing in my shitty human way. By really looking, really listening, fully comprehending the intense aliveness, intelligence and beauty of the natural systems that exist around us, you then become overwhelmed by the reality of the devastation we are individually and collectively responsible for.

I think people have a way of mentally and emotionally blocking out the immensity of this destruction, because to fully comprehend it is almost too painful to bear. It’s like our brains are using a coping mechanism that protects us from immediate trauma so that we can just keep moving. It’s easier and more comfortable to keep our eyes and ears on the shiny things we can build around us – it helps this assault seem far off, or less significant.

They say you protect what you love, so maybe if we have felt unable to protect something on our own, the easiest way around that has been to stop ourselves from loving it, from knowing it, so that we can turn our faces away.

So I guess with my paintings I am asking people to not look away. I want people to see what I see when I really look at a the way moss snakes across wet rocks, or really marvel at the slime that comes from a snails butt. Or lay back and comprehend the genius of clouds. I want them to be intoxicated, overwhelmed, consumed by perpetual, swirling sex of this planet. To feel small but also integral.

2. Where/ what is your ultimate escape?

Exploring a foreign place, where no one knows me or knows where I am and I don’t have to report to anyone or anywhere for a while.

3. What’s your favorite color?

Impossible to answer! A colour becomes beautiful when it’s in relation to another colour.

4. Do you think your career in the modeling field has altered your pre conceived notions of beauty? Does this flow into your work?

‘Beauty’ has a million different interpretations. I don’t think the understanding of ‘beauty’ in the context of the modeling industry (at least from my end of the experience as a model) has much to do with the concept of ‘beauty’ that moves me personally or creatively anymore. Perhaps when I was younger and still affected by the industry, but not anymore. If anything it showed me what does move me by surrounding me with what doesn’t.

5. When did you first start painting and why?

I’ve always drawn. It’s always felt like a compulsion that I haven’t really had a choice to respond to or not. I started doing more intense drawings when I was 14. Super intricate portraits of my friends heads. I was terrified of painting for ages though. I was very attached to the painstaking control I could have over a lead pencil. I think I started experimenting with paint at the same time I started experimenting with other things – boys/girls/intoxicants/doing stupid dangerous shit.

6. Your works are often layered with number of materials. How does each
medium add a different message to your pieces?

I don’t know if it’s a different message per say. I don’t ever try and communicate a specific message with my works, more to inflict a feeling. People take their own meaning from the things I make / interpret that feeling in their own way, and I think that’s important. I use different mediums to create a more dynamic texture in the imagery. I think it makes you look a little deeper, as your eye wanders and tries to unpack what the heck is going on visually.

7. Where did you grow up?


8. Who is your ultimate collector?

Someone who loves and connects with my work.

9. Why is creating so important to you?

As I mentioned before, for me it’s never felt like a choice I have made, but more a compulsion. I need to make things or I think my head would implode. It’s how I process the world around me, without my practice I wouldn’t feel engaged with my experience of the world.

10. What do you listen to when painting?

It depends how intensely I am focusing on the task at hand. Sometimes audiobooks are good, but the books I like to read are mostly non fiction and kinda dense – sometimes (all the time) if you’re trying to solve creative problems or make decisions about something you could miss a sentence and forget what they are talking about. Podcasts are good. I like ABC radio national and Two Dope Queens. otherwise I’ve got some overused Spotify playlists that are good for the background.

[Featured image by photographer Marcus Walters]

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