Featured Artist – Jo Coombes

We are delighted to continue with the second instalment of Jo Coombes’ fascinating series on her retrospective and current practice:

Part 2 – Façades and Follies

The world has many dark moments and turmoil, often as a result of human actions, neglect and beliefs.  I try to respond to some of these events.

The horrific demolition of Mosul, Iraq, and the desecration of Syrian monuments, by so-called Islamic State, brought a sharp focus of horror to our news’ screens. How could people survive this destruction and what could be achieved by reducing cities to rubble, and erasing history by destroying classical buildings and sculpture. Were we witnessing the end of a civilised world?

“Hollow Victory”

“Erasing History”

Closer to home, I chose lifts (elevators) as a motif to highlight the small proportion of women appearing to ‘rise to the top’ and break the ‘glass ceiling’. They start at the bottom with equal opportunities as the men, so I posed the question as to whether they self-select to leave the cut- throat race in their careers, and thus achieve a more balanced lifestyle for their families.

“The Cost of Options” (detail)

Travelling to London via Vauxhall on the train, I have been struck by the proliferation of new building construction. “Progress?” shows tower blocks rise ever higher for offices and flats, with little green space. Can such a density of urban living be healthy for the mind and soul?

The above two images, and below, of the same piece, was worked with a faux deconstruction process to print using a silk screen and watersoluble crayon rubbings. Christine Chester’s inspiring “Poetry of Decay” course produced many different techniques of adding texture to paper and fabric, and was instrumental in finding the desired effects.

Many people have struggled recently in ‘lockdown’ to work from cramped small flats in London. I remember a piece I made some years ago, influenced by the brutalist architecture of Corbusier. In an abstract piece, “A Shaven Patch of Green”, I reflected on the plight of families living in high-rise blocks with minimal outdoor garden space.

My current work for Prism focusses on man’s search for a better life, promised irresistibly by a prosperous big city.  With the covid pandemic, this desire may now fade, as people value a lifestyle working ‘from home’.

“Nightlife”

Current work for the Phoenix exhibition, ‘SeenUnseen’ references the abandoned towers of Hitler’s failed, grandiose WW2 Atlantic Wall project. Though a mark of man’s dominance, in time, nature will regenerate and soften these military wastelands and disguise these forbidding, iconic structures.