Defining Your Art through Concept and Story

Defining Your Art through Concept and Story


Before I went to university to study art, I used to base all my paintings and drawings on my emotional states. I would find images that I felt were akin to how I felt inside. I never really thought of art as a way to visually display academic ideas that were  philosophical, social and political.

Surrealism, contemporary surrealism, feminism, feminist artist, feminist painting, dreammy landscape, weird art, contemporary art, Jessica Ballantyne, Jessica Ballantyne artist, surreal landscape, womans legs seperated, sexy legs, erotic, disturbing, red oil painting, purple, creepy landscape, tree and moonlight, Sylvia Plath, the moon yew tree, melting faces, surreal colours

At the university I attended, the four year course was pretty much equally divided into practical and theory.

I remember this shifting from theoretical to practical being quite a radical and somewhat exhausting one but I am grateful for it now when it comes to the point in my practice where I want to articulate some kind of theoretical backing for my art.

It’s important to write about your art in a theoretical way not only because it broadens the meanings of your work but also because it keeps you on track and in touch with your ideas and what you want to express. That being said , art is still a subjective experience and people will sometimes see things in your work you did not intend. This makes one realise the subjective power of art and its universality. When it comes to surrealism and optical illusions (something I’m intrigued by) this subjectivity becomes more prominent as bodies and objects become abstracted from their usual contexts and appearances.

To recreate a complex idea through imagery is extremely interesting to me. The only drawback I see with this is that people will usually not be able to figure this preconceived idea out by themselves. And, as an art lover myself,  I feel that sometimes, when an artist’s idea is complex and multi-layered, it changes the way you look at the work when you know what it’s about as opposed to just looking without deconstructing. This is where the artist comes in to breathe meaning into their work art through informing the viewer what it is about. This can be pretty exciting as you watch someone fall in love with a piece because of the theory or story behind it 🙂

Now I am not saying that my work is so complex that no one can understand it without the full dissertation, but I did find that people were curious to know why I paint bodies for example or what the sexual overtones were about. So five years after graduating I am on a mission to develop my concepts and share my art with the people who want to see it.

One of the things I am most fascinated with is the female body and all the ideologies and meanings that are associated with it. Because I am occupying a female body, these portrayals of the body are not only a comment on the socio-cultural portrayals of women and beauty but also become personal arenas of expressing my relationship to my own body, sexuality, psychological impulses.

In the triptych below I wanted the viewer to get a sense of seeing from the subjects perspective. The paintings show female breasts and legs, seen from the perspective of the woman. The angles are from such a position that they appear distorted. At first I wanted the images to be unrecognisable and then, on longer inspection, for the viewer to realise what they are looking at and so shift their gaze from that of the observer to that of the observed. From the one looking, to the one looked at and then back again to the one looking. A shift in gaze from subject to object. If this works or not, still remains to be seen but that was the theory behind these pieces ;P

triptych; subjectivity; woman; breasts; pink; magenta; boobs; lace; patterning; body; female nude; gender; ideology; feminist; gaze; subjectivity; oil painting; art; Jessica Ballantyne


What do you see? Do you think knowing the story behind a piece makes you connect to it more? Please comment below!


2 thoughts on “Defining Your Art through Concept and Story

  1. Beautiful pieces….
    ”Do you think knowing the story behind a piece makes you connect to it more?”
    Like poetry, knowing the story behind a piece of artwork isnt necessary to appreciation. Artwork of most forms are unique in that it plays to the imagination of the viewer, which is in essence the beauty of life.

    1. I totally agree with you, although I think a story/concept can enrich an artists intent, its not absolutely necessary to appreciate the beauty of the work, unless its a purely conceptual piece!Thanks for the comment;)

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