Celestial and cerebral delights: the art of Josie Connor
Josie Connor is a friend, a mother, and an artist, balancing each with ease. Following her artistic pursuits, she works and creates two bodies of work, of which Josie explicitly states and names as a paper practice and domestic painting.
I first experienced Josie’s artwork overlooking Island Bay, from the windows in her stunning front room. It was a long overdue visit after years of friendship, but Josie insisted she had to be ready before showing me her work, which involved opening her home, studio, and artwork to another person. In preparation of seeing her studio, we ate a tofu wrap and enjoyed the view while having a general chit chat about life. After, we were ready to look at the art. Josie articulately, carefully, and passionately spoke about her practice. There were no stumbles, rambles, or tangents. It was a very structured discussion. Talking and walking me through the two parts to her work, Josie explained her thoughts, processes, and intentions, showing me examples, letting me have time after each one to analyse, digest, and reflect. I’m still contemplating the art now. Talking afterwards, we made sense of the work together. The whole experience seemed to be about balancing art with life.
Josie’s paintings await their final touches as they sit in different stages of being. They are waiting for something the artist is yet to discover and reveal. She describes her practice as something that is continuous, always ongoing. One layer of paint, then a painting may lie in wait for weeks, months, until Josie realises what the next layer might contain. Her practice is about the process of making, and the enjoyment of this process. The artist paints individual, unique works that illustrate this process. They take time. As each layer is applied, Josie might change direction, shape or colour. Each work sits in limbo. What may begin as one thing, usually finishes as another. This is a good thing. It is unresolved, and it is free of completion and its expectations. I think this can be seen when we look at each work. When looking at Josie’s work en-masse, it is obvious there is a lifecycle to each artwork. But beyond that, they live within the lifecycle of individual paintings (preparing, creating, hanging and selling) and the bigger collective of her suite.
One of Josie’s works on paper sits on my desk, watching over me as I type this very word. Curiously, I was drawn to it at first sight, although it contains colours I frequently admit to not liking - pink, red, and blue. The colours should clash, but they don’t, they sit in perfect harmony. Josie’s paper practice is where she experiments with the effects of paint on paper, composition, and even collage. Josie plays with colours that traditionally don’t make sense - brown and blue, baby pink and pitch black. It was by pure chance that Josie decided she could paint one of her coffee filters and then adhere it to the surface of her paintings. The majority of the time, Josie leaves the coffee filters in a whole circle, but sometimes she cuts them into crescents. They have space-like qualities, their shapes prompt ideas of suns, moons, and planets. But they also are reminiscent of an image inside my brain. They remind me of the spots you see when you close your eyes after staring at the sun for too long, or imagery when I’m in that state between awake and asleep. In Big Love, (the work on my desk) two coffee filters of bright red and blue seem to be in a state of movement through the pink sky. They visualise a circularity to Josie’s work, we can tell a cycle is taking place. Maybe it’s all the circles.
The word ‘domestic’ can have bad connotations. It can evoke ideas of something distinctly inferior, a feminine hobby or craft, and something of lesser value its male counterparts and on all kinds of levels. However, Josie embraces the term domestic to title her second body of work. Domestic, in this instance, refer to the paintings size (they are no bigger than 500mm) and their intention – to be hung in private homes. Josie cares about where the artworks end up, (there is a closure of their lifecycle with Josie, and a start of their lifecycle with their owner) who they belong to, and how they are seen. On seeing Josie’s painting Avery, I uttered the word celestial. Josie agreed. As with Josie’s paper practice, there is a freeing structure to her paintings. A structure may be a painted coffee filter stuck onto the canvas, collected textiles making up the base layer, or a diagonal line cut through the middle like in Avery. But within these structures are overlapping and overriding liberating aspects. Josie displays a lightness of touch and painterly rendering. Her paintings seem to be of another world, they inhibit celestial and cerebral plains. Josie combines colour, shape, and textures that conjure these realms. It’s where we can afford to put blue beside red against pink and yellow. They are non-figurative, they sit as emotions or imaginations of space and brain, instead of tangible items.
Josie’s art is otherworldly. But what is the other world? It is still of this earth and of humankind; her art is deeply embedded in what it is to be human, to balance life, work, family and practice while acknowledging something outside of ourselves. The images Josie creates are those of both our brains and of something higher. When I look at them, I think of them as cerebral and celestial delights.
Cerebral: of or relating to the brain or the intellect
Celestial: positioned in or relating to the sky, or outer space as observed in astronomy