Vanessa Jackson RA, Look on the Bright Side

Look on the Bright Side, 2014

Vanessa Jackson RA (b. 1953)

RA Collection: Art

Vanessa Jackson’s large-scale compositions are abstract, colourful and dynamic. She uses a large palette knife to apply paint in thick blocks of colour and describes her process as “building” or “constructing”.

Look on the Bright Side is characterised by intersecting rectilinear forms. Her early interests in Minimalism, Cubism and Russian Constructivism are evident in this work yet she creates a dialogue entirely her own, stating 'I don’t sit entirely with my back to the window as Mondrian told me to do. Also, I’ve used curves so I’m already off the Modernist track in formal terms…'

Jackson often begins with one colour that she applies to two or three paintings she’s working on simultaneously. She chooses the other colours based on the reaction between them, making work that 'is both harmonious and dissonant'. In Look on the Bright Side, she started with the sap green of the background, which reminded her of autumn in America, and chose the orange-red to counter it and then the blue to react against that. She explains that 'colour’s never static: colour’s always moving. So the forms are moving'.

Movement is important to Jackson’s process and inspirations. She watches a lot of dance, including contemporary dance and ballet, and likes rock & roll. The size of her paintings require her to move around the canvas as she creates them, saying that they are 'just the sort of scale that I can bodily work with'. The large paintings are likewise encompassing for the viewer. Whereas Jackson’s earlier works contained organic and glyph-like forms, by the time she made Look on the Bright Side, her paintings had become more representative of architectural space, as if the viewer could enter the picture plane.

Central to Jackson’s philosophy on art is the omnipresence of geometry, which she believes is 'in no particular place and everywhere all at once … It isn’t owned by any one culture, it’s played with by different cultures, both spiritually and formally in a broad sense'.

Quotes cited from an unpublished interview with Vanessa Jackson, 2017.

Object details

Look on the Bright Side
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

2140 mm x 1830 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Vanessa Jackson RA accepted 14th June 2016
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