What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

January 5, 2023

Poppy Jones
Body & Soul
Overduin & Co.
December 10, 2022 - January 28, 2023

Poppy Jones

At first glance, Poppy Jones' small, intimate, single hue paintings appear to be photographs. They are close cropped depictions of everyday things — jackets, folded shirts, boots, flowers, lamps, a candle and most beautifully, a page from a spiral bound notebook covered in shadows. These highly detailed paintings have a photographic veracity. They feel like contact prints from vintage negatives that have been selectively hand colored.

For the exhibition, Body & Soul, like in her past installations, the works are given ample space and presented in a line along the gallery walls suggesting a quasi-narrative. The first, (or last) image in the sequence is Shell (all works 2022) a realistically rendered conch shell resting on a table in front of a darker toned vase. The shell approximates its "actual" size and fills most of the 7 5/8 x 10 1/8 inch canvas. A light source outside the frame illuminates the scene, creating a fluted shadow on an adjacent wall. Because it is painted on suede (Jones sometimes cuts up her own garments or uses fabrics such as suede, silk, or cotton as a surface), there is an unevenness to the ground that accentuates the texture of the shell in this case. Here, Jones' focus is on the way light illuminates objects and while she depicts fragments and interior scenes, she is conscious of presenting moments that radiate quiet. Her "still lives" are just that — still.

Lumen, Interior (Evening) and Lux are also painted on suede in singular sepia tones. In Lux, the metal arm of a floor or desk lamp enters near the bottom left side of the composition and extends toward the right across the frame. Jones depicts the bright glow of a light bulb housed within the shade in contrast to the black of the lamp and the gradient of mid-tones on the wall behind. There is nothing else in the picture. Interior (Evening) and Lumen are less contrasty. In these subtle and minimal paintings, there is little that differentiates the object from the background. As if created in low light, Jones delineates the shapes of a candle, as well as the shade of a table lamp filling the image with a soft, glowing aura.

While none of the paintings depict people, they are present and alluded to. Folded jackets or shirts fill the space in Dawn, Mortal Form (Autumn), Mortal Form (Spring), Sea Weather and Summer Leaves. Titled after seasons, times of day, or the elements, these works are a combination of painted fabric (stripes, quilted down) and the marks or shadows that happen to fall on them. The pieces beg questions— whose garments? Are they in use or discarded? Where are they placed to capture the light and shadow? Each painting suggests a narrative or a story and one of the pleasures in regarding the work is to imagine the scene beyond the image. For example in Glass/Edge, questions arise as to who left the empty wine glass on the edge of the bannister? Why is it there?

While Jones' works are skillfully painted, they resonate beyond their formal qualities. It is not surprising that she draws from literature where descriptions of rooms and objects allude to ideas beyond. A previous exhibition was titled "Cutting Shade" after a verse in a Gertrude Stein poem and for this exhibition, the press release references Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighthouse," pointing to the silence of dilapitated spaces. Like Woolf, Jones brings inanimate objects to life. She captures indistinct moments and imbues them with memories. Her paintings give a delicate presence and a satisfying permanence to that which might otherwise be overlooked. These small works have an expansive intimacy and a lasting aura.