Michael Woods 1995
George Melly 1998
George Melly 2004
Martin Sexton 2007
Ana Balona de Oliveira 2008
José L. Terrón Ponce 2012
Flora Alexandra Ogilvy 2015

Piers Jackson

The name is somehow apt. “Piers” is romantic, medieval, Pre-Raphaelite. “Jackson” down to earth, no nonsense, tough. The man combines both aspects. Of great physical beauty and always dressed with a kind of sloppy elegance, his attitude to his work is totally committed – little else matters. His personal bohemianism is a mask. His work is both ingenious and rigorously crafted. It is poetic, far from reassuring, but he is not in the least out to shock in the contemporary manner. It demands contemplation. It resonates.

For eight years he was with Jade Jagger wanting, as they say, for nothing. They had two children, both girls, to whom he is devoted. Jade herself is and artist. Her work, to date comprising mantras of rose-petals, or butterflies individually framed often against gold backgrounds. They are by no means negligible, but Piers became aware that he had darker realms to explore. Very much a house husband, a break became inevitable.

Jade is a strong person. Piers appears to be rather passive, but beneath that almost fey surface was an artist determined to find himself, to escape his golden cage. He now lives in modest circumstances surrounded by clutter. “Last night I slept in a goose feather bed….tonight I’ll sleep on the cold cold ground along with the Raggle Taggle gypsies oh.”

Even before they separated in amicable terms his work had begun to move. He painted a series of crows, a subject Jade found rather threatening, an indication perhaps of the break to come. Crows, as Ted Hughes recognised are birds of ill-omen, creatures of “the cold cold fields”. Mantras and rose petals are unrelated to these piratical creatures. There are no crows in this exhibition, but they can be heard still and hang in his studio, witnesses of his liberation.
Piers is showing two very different series. The first is eleven photographs of the artist’s torso holding in front of his face a cow’s skull. The torso remains identical, but the skull moves gradually from a profile to full face and then back again to the opposite profiles. They work slowly but accumulatively (he would prefer to sell them as a set) and the contrast between soft flesh and hard bone, between life and death has something of the memento mori about them. The horns give the images a flavour of the demonic, but they are tragic rather than orgiastic, and relentlessly beautiful.

The other half of the show is made up of boxes. Seen from the front they present a totally black surface but broken by a small peep-hole. Putting one’s eye to this one discovers a brightly lit image, predominantly red and white, in illusory perspective, seemingly far deeper than the comparatively shallow box would allow. This is explained by a long glassed slit in the top through which is the suspended image itself surrounded by a series of mirrors tilted at various angles which throw the image down onto a final angled mirror behind the peephole and lending the illusion of space. It is a light shining through the slit in the top which activates this ingenious device, but if the illusion were all it would be no more than a clever trick.

That it is not is the result of the choice of images; red shoes, one of them played with by cats, chess pieces, and so on which somehow seem both inevitable and loaded with nostalgia and regret. We can never enter the vignettes. We are too big and clumsy. They remind me of Alice, before she ate the right amount of cake and sipped the correct quantity of wine, staring with frustrated anguish at the magic garden through the little door in the wainscot.

George Melly
( April 1998)