Head leaned over a microscope, she would try to enjoy knowing about the sex life of virus’ and bacteria. But her mind would soon wander out of her Human Sciences laboratory to what students at the neighboring architecture college might be doing. Jennifer Bush knew her heart lay with art, and that with human sciences, she was only beating around the bush. Then one fine day, she walked into an exhibition at the Hayward in London, sat down, marveled at Rodin’s sculptures and could not help sketch them. That was the moment she knew, that she had to dedicate her life to art. From then on, Jennifer Bush has spent time drawing, especially human figures. Currently, she is also teaching the art professionally.
For Jennifer, the moment of acceptance was followed by evening classes and foundation course at Heatherley’s School of Art and then a BA in Fine Arts at Camberwell College, all in London. Her Human Sciences’ Laboratory was replaced by her new laboratories—National Gallery and the outdoors. When she dedicated her life completely to art, she saw that inspiration and learnings came from everywhere: her greatest influences were Raphael, Rembrandt, Ruysdael, Giacometti and de Staël; once in France, Veronique Masurel taught her about color while Michel Hertz, a Marine painter had much to tell about greys.
Human sketches have always been her favorite, but unfortunately, there was little support for this at college. Back then, conceptual art was the fashionable, accepted movement. “I was even told to stop painting and drawing!” Jennifer says. But she stayed stubborn, practicing in the life room for two years. “My drawing really took off when I practiced drawing from the model at least 3 times a week and especially taking a model on my own,” she says. Jennifer has not dependent on her art to pay her way and has always worked on the side. She has been teaching drawing for twelve years now. “What I learned in neurology is actually very valuable in teaching drawing today,” she admits.
It is between control and letting go, fleeting movement and solid form that Jennifer’s sketches come to life. They almost look like they are done in urgency, which they are, many a times, owing to the limited time with the model. Even with the urgency, she holds a certain concentration—wiping and erasing until she finds a line that sums up several others. Some even feel aggressiveness of the strokes. “I have not intended this,” Jennifer says. “Maybe, this is the energy of the cities I have lived in or an unconscious anger how man is not free…” With this oscillating dance between heaviness and fluidity interacting with each other, her sketching lines sometimes look for inner relationships and tensions that are barely visible on the skin of her model. This harmony in the movement of line is something she owes to her mentor Raphael, who taught her to ‘dance’ around the form, instead of referencing from a photograph.
For such expression on paper, Jennifer works with willow charcoal, a rag and putty rubber. While charcoal helps in covering greater surfaces quickly and working chiaroscuro, holding it differently permits varied mark making. The hurried strokes sometimes mislead fellow artists to think that they are rapid sketches,but Jennifer says that they easily take up to an hour. She prefers drawing standing up, when her arms and shoulder are mobile. When she sketches, her two worlds come together—the outer and the inner one. New relationships and new correspondences are built, yet retaining mystery. “Drawing is a lesson of humility,” she continues, “Even though I have been drawing for 30 years, I never ‘know’ and the first marks may be clumsy.”
“Drawing is a lesson of humility, Even though I have been drawing for 30 years, I never ‘know’ and the first marks may be clumsy”
Still shy of painting landscapes outside in public, Jennifer is looking forward to ‘getting back in’ her studio after a break of 3 years. Once again, she will be spending mornings musing and meditating that gives her the flow in her sketches, while the definite structure would come from hours with models. While her teaching has enriched her work, her dream is to reduce it to occasional workshops and solely concentrate on how to ‘play’. By this autumn, her studio will be ready and her thoughts are already consumed with two series that she wants to work on—’Light on the Loire,’ and one same pose reinterpreted several times. She is also thinking of playing with more abstract memory work. Learning Chinese calligraphy and clay modeling are also next in queue.
It is only when she draws, that Jennifer feels alive. Even in times of difficulty, she has stuck to it. Jennifer only presents her art; what we make of it is always up to us. The bold lines and the slight greys, so much mystery lies between her strokes—her drawings are an ordered chaos. The strokes strong enough for her to define something to us, and the rest the viewer is free to choose. If Jennifer’s work rises from the frustration of man not being free, with her art, she is keeping that freedom alive.