South London’s newest Aussie, visual artist Jess Cocharane, blurs the boundaries between portraiture & painting. Inspired by the unique fashion culture of London, and the differences between her native Sydney and the capital, Jess invited us over to her new studio for a chat, followed by a coffee at her favourite local.
So Jess, how’s your week been?
It’s been good, I’ve had a really nice week as I’ve just come back from a break in Spain, so I’m feeling recharged. Plus, all my friends are in town this week.
Tell us about your studio that we’re currently sat in.
It’s pretty new! I moved in July. I live around the corner which is super lucky. I actually did a screen printing course really close by and that's how I found out about this place. It can be hard looking for studios in London as they’re either far away or overpriced.
Your work seems to be predomitally mix media?
Yes, so it’s quite multidisciplinary work. The first thing I do is take a portrait photograph of a subject, then digitally edit to ensure brightness. I don’t particularly airbrush anything, rather I put a film grain over it to make it softer. The image goes to print after being blown up and then that’s when I start painting over it. At the moment I’m currently using a combination of acrylic paint, oil pastels, oil sticks and lipstick. But it depends on the subject and the portrait as to what I get from them in terms of colours and what I can play off. I then use this to warp the face.
You use lipstick?
I do. I think it’s an interesting medium because of its connotations to beauty and the idea of enhancement, but also the use of it in a portrait becomes an act surrounded by notions of love.
What do you want your art to say to people?
There's so much you can take from it. There's many different theoretical elements, but the one predominant thing is that there is a great strength in vulnerability and being seen with your imperfections. Being able to bare that to the world, especially in the climate we’re in now, it’s an incredibly strong thing to do.
You’ve only recently moved to London. How are you finding it in contrast to Sydney?
Well… it’s not as sunny. You know what though, I love it. There's so much cool sh*t to do. I feel like I've almost been so distracted by all the fun stuff to do and see, I haven't worked enough! There’s so many cool characters and amazing people to meet and connect with, so it’s been awesome as far as taking portraits go. Also, as a big art & design nerd, there's just so much to see; incredible galleries, talks and discussions. There's something around every corner! I do miss the beach though... I definitely miss the ocean.
I am sure you do! What’s inspiring you in London right now?
The way that London forms a character. There’s a real contrast between my work in Australia and the UK. In my Australian portraits there’s intense apparent influence from surf culture, beach culture and the climate. We’re constantly (for the most part), in bikinis, so we’re very aware of our bodies being on display. The difference here is that it’s not about your fitness or how buff you look on a beach, but more about how you put an outfit together and how you disguise your body to show something about yourself. It’s really about self expression through dress and how much of your face you're revealing. For a portrait artist the difference in how people present is really interesting.
I’m fascinated by the sneaker culture here. There's sneaker culture in Australia but not as big as it is here in Europe and the UK. I've never really had to consider keeping my shoes super clean and immaculate!
What was the last podcast you listened to?
Bobo & Flex. It’s a fun fem podcast that provokes me to think a little harder and reminds me to take accountability for my actions.
Next holiday planned?
I’m off to Paris next Friday. It’s my boyfriend’s mum’s birthday so we’re doing a little family trip. I’m very ready to eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of champagne.
Have you got anything exciting coming up?
I have some work going in a group show very soon and I’ve also got a cool project coming up with Bailey Nelson, so stay tuned for that!
Photos by @calumheadfilm