Jessica Hartley

Jessica Hartley

Who are you?
   Jessica Hartley

Where are you?
     I’m based in London and the South East of England.

What are you researching/interested in?
   My work is driven from the intricate yet complex structures of cells found in organic material. I study their behaviour and apply a forensic approach to my practice and research to explore this topic. For example, I use microscopes to record cellulose abstractions photographically, blowing up these images using the concept of the micro and the macro. Taking fragments from these structures I translate them into different mediums, such as print or installation. A lot of my research takes place outside of the studio as it is not enough to remain within the art institutes or studio. I conduct interviews with various people, such as an undertaker at a crematorium for example, in order to have a deeper understanding of my subject, exploring this boundary between science and art. Photography is a great medium as a vehicle for ideas, it allows me to then expand into installation and print.

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'Internal No.1' (2017)
'Human Form No.1' (2017)

What is your work (specific or general) trying to say?
     I reiterate these sections of complex micro structures to challenge spectators perspectives and perceptions on matter that usually is not usually visible to the naked eye. By exposing the viewer to fragments of these infinite infrastructures, which fundamentally make up larger compositions that we take at face value everyday, it invites the viewer to fathom new ways of thinking about how we are just simply matter. Perception really defines how we see or judge everything around us and it has been a concern for me how people get stuck in a way of seeing. Our perception becomes easily accustomed to the repetitive imagery of our environment and people have a tendency to take objects that we see in everyday life at face value, like a tree or a human. We forget the biological and physical structure of what actually makes up those visual surfaces.

A lot of this is derived from my own inspirations, such as Brian Cox’s theory that everything originates from star dust. This validates the fact that everything is intertwined with the very fabric of the earth, which means the Earth is interwoven with each of our physical beings. With this the material is also quite organic as well through the way that I choose to express these micro structures through the macro. Although we appear to be these simple structures on this visual surface, we’re actually not. We’re so complex in our structure and yet so similar to absolutely everything that surrounds us. I don’t quite know why that is so important to me yet, its just fascinating because it also allows me to explore more of my own interests in science. I think if I hadn’t gone into the arts I would have gone into science.

Who is your work for?
     My artwork is mainly for myself because I’m so driven by the process, I enjoy the process of research and making more than I do the final outcome. I’m very hands on and I get a lot of self enjoyment from that. through experimentation I learn and I love this aspect. The process is most important for me but the outcome is for those who maybe want to explore the ideas of science or have an interest in it.

Can you explain a pivotal artwork of yours?
     ‘Ashes and The Rest’ has lead me onto my current practice. I got hold of some animal and human ashes and became interested in their own structures and texture. I wanted to explore the ‘matter’ for what it really was, leading me to a forensic approach and starting to look at microorganisms, carbon and the periodic table. This then brought me into the labs and focusing on science. I then exhausted the ashes as a research topic and that’s when I moved onto living biological structures which have come from my own body.
     I discovered that desensitisation was a big thing I had to breach throughout my practice last year when I first started working with ash. People usually find microorganisms and the body quite gross; I then confront the viewer with the idea that it doesn’t have to be this way and what we are made out of can actually be aesthetically beautiful.

jessica hartley artwork
'Translations' (2017)

Can you give one piece of advice?
   It’s so important to find something that you’re really interested in, because if you’re not interested in the subject that you’re working with then you’ll get bored with it so quickly. I think creativity comes with your enthusiasm towards the subject. Finding a niche doesn’t come easily, but you must MUST always be interested in what you’re doing. Whether it be the process, technique or subject matter itself, there has to be something which really fuels and drives your enthusiasm. Thats when your research will fly and give you more ideas. I think you have to be very bold and brave, everybody has to remember there is no wrong answer in terms of visual representation. When you think oh its not working its not because it’s not working it’s because you need to tackle the subject from a different way in.

Which exhibition have you liked recently?
     ‘Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece’ at the British Museum. It was exquisite. He’s a sculptor from the late eighteen hundreds to the very early nineteenth century. It was beautifully curated, although his works are very big and a statement in themselves, they all had enough space to breathe and allowed people to be immersed in the work without it being too cluttered. I loved the Anselm Kiefer show from a couple of years ago at the Royal Academy, however his painting are so overwhelming it’s a lot to take in. Sometimes if the works don’t have enough room you can’t appreciate them to their very fullest because you are distracted a little bit by the place.
     Auguste Rodin has always been a favourite of mine although he is inspired by greek sculpture which I love, he also works with this idea of fragments as well. My mother is a sculptor herself and I think he is both one of our personal loves. Not only is he incredibly skilled but how he portrays his enthusiasm and interest for the greek mythology really comes through in his work, he represents it so beautifully. It’s a must see.

Whats next?
     On the 2nd of June I have my BA fine Art degree show at Kingston School of Art, I also plan to start up my own business with producing commissioned ash prints. Next year I’m going to do my MA in Art Marketing and Appraisal at Kingston School of Art and hopefully go into Art Law and fraud within the art world. Learning more about the business side of things, as I eventually want to go into art sales.

Can you recommend three artists to look at?

Aimee Hornby     @aimeerhornby

Emily Dickinson  @emilly.d

Fay Burnett      @fayburnettofficial

art installation
traces 7
'Traces No. 7' (2018)

To see more from Jessica, please click on the following links:


carbon 3
'Carbon No. 4' (2016)
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