Video Interview: Where Art Meets Science

Art was never encouraged in Jacquelyn Stephens’ family, who, as she puts it, “come from a conservative farming background down on the Mornington Peninsula”. However, Jacquelyn always knew she was meant to be an artist. Despite initially studying biology and nursing, she found herself drawn to exploring the art world and eventually “had a wonderful time” studying art at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.

Artist painting

Jacquelyn found joy in her art practice.

However, just as Jacquelyn’s art career was ready to blossom, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that confounded doctors. For a year she found herself in and out of hospital, with double vision that had her seeing the blurry dots that would later become an influence on her paintings.

“During that time I decided, ok, I can’t do anything at the moment, I’m confined to my space, so I started making small artworks and looking into microscopic, mysterious worlds… I realised hey, this is amazing, there’s this world of wonder within these tiny microscopic things, these dots.”

Artist in studio space

The production end of Jacquelyn’s studio.

Before this life-altering event, Jacquelyn’s art was very politically motivated. She elaborates, “I used to make quite serious work – ‘feminist’ work, before I was ill.” Now, however, her focus has shifted towards the awe-inspiring magic of nature and biology, noting that “the building blocks of life are so important to what I do.”

Reef Bloom Surge artwork

Reef Bloom Surge by Jacquelyn Stephens.

This unlikely marriage between art and science has resulted in a unique, beautiful portrayal of cells that form a miniature landscape when viewed beneath a microscope. To her, there has always been art and creativity within the scientific field. She explains, “I find scientists are very creative people. They have to problem solve and that’s creativity.”

The influence of science on her art practice doesn’t end at the microscope. When it comes to creating her paintings, she uses random chance to let nature decide where her dots appear. “I have buckets of pebbles…and I throw them onto my canvas.” She then carefully builds each dot into the cellular representation that characterises her work.

Artist throwing pebbles onto canvas

Jacquelyn throws pebbles onto her canvas to determine the composition.

“I don’t want to make a cell form be a cell form – I want to keep it a little ambiguous” Jacquelyn says, hoping that her audience will bring their own feelings to the experience.

In Jacquelyn’s eyes, the most rewarding part of being an artist is when her paintings go to their new homes and make a positive impact there. She states “my clients and customers come back to me and say the work that I’ve given them has changed their life… if they’re having troubles, it uplifts their spirits.” To improve someone’s world and spark their appreciation of natural wonders is the goal she has in mind while creating.

Art against the studio wall

Jacquelyn will be opening her studio to the public next month!

2017 will be a busy year for Jacquelyn – next month she has both an open studio with some of her creative neighbours and a group show, A Whole Different Animal, at Bright Space, St Kilda. July 1st is the day she opens her studio to the public, alongside the Vivien Anderson Gallery and a few others. Later in the year, she’s also participating in a pop-up exhibition.

You can discover Jacquelyn’s full Bluethumb profile here.

View the highlights of our chat with Jacquelyn in the short video below! 

Spotlight on Papulankutja Artists

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