Picture perfect painting

20:24, Aug 20 2012
tdn jasmine
Artist Jasmine Middlebrook says painting is virtually an obsession.

Painting has become the crux of Jasmine Middlebrook's life - it's virtually an obsession.

"I wake up and think painting, I go to sleep and think painting. I couldn't imagine doing anything else," she said.

The 25-year-old Taranaki artist recently scooped the $8500 grand prize at the Southland Art Society ILT Awards with her striking oil painting On Iron Crutches.

The competition is known as one of the most prestigious in New Zealand and Middlebrook's piece was judged the best of 200 entries.

While the prize was gratefully accepted by the full-time painter, a lack of surprise could be forgiven, considering the list of accolades recently attributed to her name.

Middlebrook was named a joint winner of Whakatane's Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award, and also won the City of Dunedin and Taranaki Art Awards in 2011.


The list could go on, however, the softly spoken artist is modest about what she has accomplished so far.

"I'm happy with what I've achieved, but I'm still a bit nervous about what's next. I can't just keep doing competitions," she said.

While she has already sold a number of paintings, Middlebrook said the next step was to promote her work overseas and start applying for residencies.

Until then, her sanctuary is an empty space at Merrilands School.

In return for teaching an art class once a week, Middlebrook was offered the use of an empty room at the school to unleash her creativity.

It is there where she continues to hone the unique aesthetic she has been working on for the past three years.

"I used to do a lot of portraiture and just found it a bit boring. This is much more challenging for me and I'm always looking to do something new and exciting.

"I don't give myself any restrictions."

Pictorial narrative is the focus of her art, which Middlebrook said explored the ways painting could communicate passages of time.

Her decision to leave parts of her canvas bare is fast becoming a trademark of the young artist.

By contrasting unpainted canvas with highly detailed areas, she hopes to join the concept of pictorial narrative with the painting process.

Middlebrook said her chosen style constantly challenged her.

"I'm getting quicker at doing a lot of the detail. It's deciding what to leave blank and what to detail that's the challenge for me at the moment."

Middlebrook said the idea of pictorial narrative had its grounding in early Byzantine art, which was often used to educate the masses about biblical stories.

Each of her paintings incorporates patches of colour with objects, animals, landscapes, and quite often family members, all of which require a lot of detail.

"I quite like going nuts at the start with the colour, but I love doing the detailed bits at the end, and the finishing touches."

Her work has been likened to that of New Zealand artist Jeffery Harris, who uses a mixture of line, detail and over- lapping images to create a network of symbolic references.

Deidre Copeland, judge at the Southland art awards, described Middlebrook's work as both "original" and "mind-boggling".

"It shows an outstanding level of technical expertise, with multiple layers of paint and possible narratives," she said.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate has a clear vision on how she wants her paintings to affect those who gaze upon them.

"They're quite busy works, and I like that when people come back to the work they see something different each time. There are so many small details that I try to work in.

To sum up her paintings, it could be said that each one incorporates order, disorder, clarity and confusion; all at the same time.

And they will only continue to become more complex, she said.

"It's always slightly evolving, but you need to look very closely at each series to find the differences."

As she strives to make a living off her talent, Middlebrook said she still worried about the uncertainty of her future plans.

After an inspection of her work, it's fair to say she needn't worry so much.

Taranaki Daily News