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

George Melly on Piers Jackson

 

An extremely polite young man with the good looks of a romantic poet circa 1820, he is also an extremely convincing and unique artist. His studio painted stark white would have suited Mondrian; his pictures and artwork, hanging on the walls with meticulous effect, are his alone.

I have followed his career with interest and admiration. Each exhibition has shown current obsessions realised with considered craftsmanship. He is a one-off, and especially so today.

He has pursued his way without being at all influenced by ‘The Brit Pack’. I’m sure his bed is meticulously clean, the smell of formaldehyde nowhere present, nor does he seem obsessed with money - but tends to land on his feet. His flat is part of a house which belongs to a beautiful woman at the centre of the Chelsea Set in the 60’s. He has a car and he stood me a delicious lunch in a nearby bistro, which I had alas to gobble up as I was on my way to a funeral of a dear friend. I didn’t rush my viewing of the work however. When I asked a question, he answered it directly, but there was no sign of egotism or self-justification.

I thought in the taxi, en route to South London, how, without the”I’ve come to make your flesh creep” stance of, say, the Chapman brothers, Piers knows and thinks about mortality. In the last show I saw large and beautiful photographs of Piers’ naked torso, he holding up a cow’s skull
image a chilling image
Reason Suspended 1997

to conceal his face, a chilling image. This exhibition also contained the image of a raven. This bird of ill omen has returned to his current work. “Never more”, I suggested. Here, for once, he didn’t respond.

The work I went to see, his contemporary work (2002-2004) is typically, if coolly, obsessional. At its centre is an Egyptian pyramid, not one of the famous two near Cairo, but at Giza.

Typically, Piers has never visited it, but studied it in depth. Only now did it occur to me that the pyramids themselves are the tomb and monuments of the pharaohs and other powerful Egyptians. There are also circles, cubes and spheres. The circles are based on a measurement taken of an imaginary circle drawn around the base of the pyramid with the compass needle on its top, cubed spheres. One encased in glass, seemed to me, while aesthetically seductive, to exist on its own. The ravens hover or perch, once as a pair. One of the pyramids is in reverse perspective, an effect invented by Patrick Hughes.

The builders in ancient Egypt also designed a cap-stone, a miniature of the pyramid intended to top it, but it was never installed. Piers has painted a series of what he calls ‘Micro-Pyramids’ arranged in his studio as a long, almost hallucinatory line.

On the unfinished summit of the main structure is, in consequence, a small flat platform. On it perches a raven looking intently at a star.

One of the most striking features of this late work is his limitation of colour. There is only congealed blood red (the ravens especially) and copper-leaf (the pyramids and spheres), and yet the effect is extraordinarily rich. What’s more, on both pyramid and sphere, whether in one dimension or more, the copper leaf makes them appear solid objects throught the intervention of light.

As a final rare oddity, but a very effective one, the pictures are painted on glass, which casts on the mostly white backgrounds, a slightly submarine glow.

Piers Jackson’s most irrelevant public fame was founded on his long affair with Jade Jagger, a less austere artist. It’s over now, when Jade swam down into deeper waters. Piers told me he’d always got on with her father, and indeed the ‘Street Fighting Man’ was present at the cow’s skull exhibition.

The departure of the fascinating Jade has, however, killed the interest of the tabloids - surely a good thing for a serious artist.

When he decided to paint, his father, who had hopes of him following in his footsteps as an engineer, was initially very disappointed. He eventually got over it and now, Piers tells me, has several of his works in his house.

Finally, however, the effect of Piers early scientific training is certainly responsible for the exact precision of his images, but above that is the element of magic and mystery. Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism in the twenties, once wrote that, for him, the test of a work of art was that it should give you the impression of ‘ a cold wind brushing the forehead’. For me, Piers Jackson fulfils that definition exactly.

20 December 2004