Now Featuring Jessica Simorte
Jessica Simorte’s paintings look outward and then look inward. Using abstraction and pattern allows Simorte to paint metaphorical interiors. These are non-spaces, triggered by the artist’s real environment, rendering as painting a record of interior, reflected space.
MH: There’s also a sense of repetition and patterns in your work, oftentimes interrupted by one or two larger forms. Can you talk about pattern in your work?
JS: The use of pattern is a connection to inside space, or more specifically, domestic space. I’m interested in the repetitive nature of pattern, and how that predictability can be disrupted with larger gestures. There are definitely motifs that have been in the work for years, including the “double dash” lines, grids, and various dots. I’m interested in the works quoting each other through these elements.
It’s very exciting to see this resurgence of pattern used in contemporary painting, whereas for so long it was described as something purely “decorative.” That’s an interesting conversation in itself.
MH: You have a very coherent body of work from the last few years. How have your process and interests evolved over the course of your education and provocative?
JS: I fixated on painting during grad school and despite having an interdisciplinary practice that includes drawings, digital work and some sculpture, I don’t think I’ll ever not want the work to be painting-based. My interest in spatial experience and placemaking makes abstraction the most appropriate approach, as I’m not interested so much in site specify within the paintings, but rather some place more cerebral.
I think other things that remain consistent is my dedication to small work, especially as something that can offer itself to a range of collectors and environments, and my interest in nuance within the work. There has always been subtlety within the shifts of color and surface texture that I hope is rewarding for those viewing the work closely.
The things that change seem to be color and form. Being that the work is so place-based, it’s an interesting challenge to move often. I used to directly source my local environments in the work, but lately the work has loosened up a bit and is more suggestive than referential. However, I find that local color or shape appear regardless of intention. For example, a leaf-like gesture appears often now and it occurred to me this is likely a result of being around agave and other new-to-me plants since moving to Texas. Additionally, I’m sure that my interest in flatness is somehow related to being a Midwesterner.
MH: I like the way that the smaller size of your paintings, plus the textural paintwork, messes a little bit with how they function for me. They seem much more like objects than images. How do you see it?
JS: I suppose I view them as both images and objects. I love that someone could leave a studio visit with a painting of mine under their arm—that’s important to me. These aren’t gigantic couch paintings for the mega wealthy. They are humble but not without a punch, hopefully.
Image making is how I get at the content that I’m interest in. I use formalism as a framework to create a sense of place. The paintings explore both flatness and depth, one often challenging the other. These images are often places that are satisfying to me in ways that my current, real environments are not and therefore, offering a bit of escapism for both the artist and viewer.
MH: How did you like the sculptural pieces you’ve done in collaboration and on your own? Is it a continuous part of your practice?
JS: I made the Cut Outs in school with my partner Max Manning. I would draw the shape, he could cut, and we would paint. Every once in awhile, I’ll make shapes out of paperclay. However, in both cases, I think of it more like (three-dimensional) drawing. I love when the processes overlap and have come to think of these efforts as my “side band.” It’s definitely not my primary focus but a great thing to have going on in the wings.
MH: What (or who) are some of your influences?
JS: Among my favorite artists are Allison Miller, Rebecca Morris, and Betty Woodman—I suppose pattern could be the connection there. I respond to Ky Anderson and Vicki Sher’s work a lot, too. I’m super grateful for the friends I have that inspire me with their incredible work, including Max, Allison Reimus and Peter Shear.
Beyond other artists, I’m influenced by a number of things. I love the ridiculous proportions and color currently in fashion design, textiles, home goods, books, badass women, a good patio, etc.