When Jessie Nash was selected as one of 10 emerging artists to take part in the first ever Tracey Emin residency, she was beyond thrilled – not least because she’d submitted her application at the eleventh hour. Now, Nash has temporarily relocated from idyllic Bujalung Country in Australia to Margate, where she’ll join ceramicists, sculptors and fellow painters at TKE Studios, Emin’s newly founded talent incubator.
Over the last few months, Nash has carved out a reputation for painting vibrant, semi-realistic paintings of popular Aussie fare: Twistie and Smiths crisp packets, Bundaberg ginger beer and, of course, the universally divisive Vegemite. “Apparently [I’ve been feeling] very inspired by my pantry and the nomadic cupboard under my kitchen sink!” Nash says.
As cliché as it sounds, the 28-year-old has had a knack for art since she was just a kid. “There are photos of me aged four or five, falling asleep amongst my crayons,” she remembers fondly.
The seed for Nash’s snack-focused paintings was sown over the pandemic, when she was living in Melbourne and, like the rest of the world, feeling increasingly isolated and cabin feverish. “The lockdowns were long, strict and quite frankly zapped me of my creativity and inspiration. I needed to find a way to remind myself that, regardless of what was happening outside my bedroom walls, I was immensely lucky to have my practice.”
Unlike walks in the park, eating at restaurants and seeing friends and family, Nash always had her paintbrushes to turn to. So she had a rummage around her cupboards, set up still-life arrangements of her favourite treats and went about immortalising them. “They feel like little self-portraits, bits of me that I use every day but tend to overlook.”
Ultimately, Nash hopes that her work will help inspire people to look in a fresh light at objects they might consider mundane. If putting brush to canvas helps her marshall her thoughts and take stock, even for a minute, then maybe her paintings can do the same for viewers.
Nash’s favourite thing about being an artist is that it reminds her of the vastness of the world around her, even if she is starting with the foodstuffs in front of her nose. “Having this practice is truly the biggest blessing. It’s something internal and intrinsic that I need to be brave enough to share with others. I love that it gives me the courage to do that.”