Beauty, Divinity and Universality: The art of Laura Jones
Sydney art dealer Tim Olsen describes artist Laura Jones as “the real deal”. In an era where so many artists are caught in an existential crisis, paroled by a desire to create pretty work in order to appeal to the widest possible audience, Jones transcends this hubbub.
In doing so, Jone’s vibrant paintings are universally lauded as beautiful. No mean feat in a world that prides beauty as intimately subjective, dependent on the beholder’s view of the world and their place in it.
But what distinguishes such beauty, lifting the young artist’s paintings beyond individualistic appreciation to universal acclaim? Why is Jones the real deal?
Laura Jones' studio Photo: Laura Jones
Artist Laura Jones Photo: The Design Files
For me the answer is found not where one might first expect to look. Rather than buried in the philosophy of art or the study of the human psyche, I turn instead to a religious understanding of the inter-relationship of beauty, divinity and universality.
In this context it is difficult to see beauty without contemplating the hand of a higher being. It is a universal human experience that is impossible to ignore.
The remarkable thing is how easily many associate beauty with God because it transcends ordinary experience and explanation. So much of what is attributed to God is objectively then viewed as beautiful.
Art like music C.S. Lewis said “most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity”. Regardless of belief, each naturally evokes a powerful sense of the transcendent.
British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis Photo: Foundation for Economic Education
With such characteristics music and art are of great importance to the promotion of his religious belief, and are to be given pride of place in liturgical services. To go further, these disciplines Lewis argues have a redemptive flavour. Whilst many may turn from their church or faith, others are nostalgically drawn to the ritual, adornments and beauty of their religion. These elements are universally captivating.
In this way, beauty is universally experienced as transcendent and is therefore the gateway to religious experience. In turn, once a person begins to have religious experiences, the need for arguments naturally fades. This religiosity exposes the irresistible beauty of art. Such art is objectively beautiful. Such art attains a divine status, a universal appeal.
Laura Jones, 'Flannel Flowers' (2016) Photo: Laura Jones
Laura Jones, 'In the Air after Mason's Tattoos (2018) Photo: Olsen Gallery, Sydney
Installation shot, 'Too Much / Not Enough' (2018) Photo: Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne
And Jones' paintings are undeniably beautiful. Objectively beautiful.
Like a number of her talented Australian contemporaries - Gatya Kelly, Kate Bergin, Michaye Boulter, Kathryn Ryan, Dagmar Cyrulla, Heidi Yardley, Jennifer Riddell, Belinda Henry, Jill Kempson, Diane Watson, Catherine Abel, Christine Healy, Martine Emdur, Robyn Sweaney, Criss Canning, and Claire Bridge - Jones reaches beyond any temptation to simply make aesthetically pleasing art. Jones elicits a musicality, elation and boundlessness in her paintings. Her use of colour (as with all these artists) radiates.
Jones' still life works are wistfully composed but painted in a vivacious and gestural manner. Her paintings of the natural environment, its elements and flora draw and connect us all. Taken together, her work takes us to a higher place.
In the end, Jones creates irresistibly beautiful art. And her audience is left in no doubt. Jones is the real deal.
Laura Jones, 'Banksia, hydrangea and balloon plant' (2016) Photo: Olsen Gallery, Sydney
Gatya Kelly, 'Fig Alzara' (2018) Photo: Frances Keevil Gallery, Sydney
Jennifer Riddle, 'No Man's Land – Bathurst Harbour' (2019) Photo: Glover Prize
Kate Bergin, 'Visiting the Palace of Amsterdam (featuring Melchior de Hondecoeter’s Palace of Amsterdam with Exotic Birds, c. 1660)' (2019) Photo: Art Almanac
LAURA JONES, 'OLYMPIA' runs 19 June to 14 July at OLSEN SYDNEY
Main Photo: Laura Jones Photo: Talking with Painters
Andrew McIlroy is a visual artist and arts writer, living and working in Melbourne, Australia.