[image-3] Growing up, I had a best friend named Emelie who lived in a gorgeous sprawling house on the water. Going over to her house felt like escaping to a sliver of Narnia — a well-kept garden, a rope swing, an additional “little house” tucked away in the woods. And her room — three times the size of the room my sister and I shared. It always smelled like lumber and lavender. It was peaceful, but, also, for my 10-year-old self, exhilarating.
That’s as close as I can get to describing how I felt walking into The George Gallery, watching 28-year-old Birmingham-based mixed media artist Catherine Booker Jones start to hang the work for her upcoming solo show, Colour Inherited. This is Jones’ first solo show, and she says she felt a bit “starstruck” when gallery owner Anne Siegfried emailed her. [image-2]
In Birmingham, Jones says she works out of her home and a small studio, but the available space for artists is nothing compared to Charleston. For this show, Jones says: “You prepare a lot because you’re worried about each singular piece but you also have to think about the pieces showing as a whole.” And being prepared is the name of the game for Jones, who says she’s thought about each piece’s composition for “at least a week” before she puts brush to canvas.
The pieces in Colour Inherited, like in all of Jones’ work, are “highly color driven.” Using an oil stick that is like “compressed oil paint with a very vibrant hue,” acrylic, or gouache, Jones says that sometimes the paint, depending on the medium, can take weeks to dry. “You have to be really on top of it,” she says, “and put everything down, because if not everything works you have to start over.”
Jones, who is inspired by painters of the early 20th century, says she starts with a certain color in mind, and the composition will take shape around that. “There’s some intuitiveness in terms of color — I like to make color relationships work. But I’ve thought about the composition for a while. I know when it’s finished, I sit on it for a few days, try not to add anything to it. I don’t constantly layer. I reach a peaceful kind of ‘OK we’re done.'”
Siegfried says she was looking for an older and more established artist when she first came across Jones’ work at a group show at Fritz Porter. “I was not looking for someone like her, at the beginning of her career. But her work resonated. There’s nothing that is excessive, there’s nothing that doesn’t need to be there. It’s all very thoughtful. It’s minimal, but I wouldn’t describe it as minimal because of the intensity of the color.”
It’s maybe a bit like a memory, so visceral it’s lodged permanently in the recesses of the mind, easy to call to the fore on days when childhood sleepovers sound so much safer and sounder than real life. It’s also fleeting, a feeling that you know can’t last forever, although you wish it would. Jones’ work, with its vibrant hues and purposeful strokes, has tapped into the peaceful energy of a time long gone, but still hovering, a bright spot.