The Interview: Jess Cochrane

Jess Cochrane is a lady who will soon need no introduction. Her work has appeared in Yen Magazine, and been nominated for the National Graduate Show at PICA, Perth. She’s also a rad human who rocks at what she does, and we think that’s something worth celebrating.

What do you do and why? I create large scale contemporary experimental portraiture, for the most part. I do it mostly because it’s the one thing I know how to do! I don’t really know what else I would do if I didn’t paint.

You describe your style as ‘painterly application over photographic images’, and some of your work uses collage. What draws you to that as your medium? Most of my work is based around females. If you look at women in art history, so often the image is being composed for the eyes of a man. I find it fascinating painting over an image because it’s taking back some of that power, and evolving the way we look at women.

A lot of your work deals with beauty and expectations around beauty. Is that a concept you’ve struggled with in your own life? Absolutely. For a long time I struggled with perfectionism, and a lot of mental health stuff based around not feeling like I’m enough, and wanting to be a part of a creative realm that moves so fast that you often feel like you’re trying to keep up. My practice has definitely helped me with my own issues. Defacing an image that’s so perfect, and that I’ve idolised for so long, was such a freeing experience. It gave me a fresh perspective on what it is that I’ve spent so long investing my time in. And, funnily enough it’s kind of helped me see that it’s really important to embrace all your imperfections and differences as an artist too.

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What is your self care routine when things get tough? I make sure that I do things that make me happy at least once a day. Even if it’s something silly, like patting a dog, or seeing a friend, or having a bath… I’m constantly trying to find ways to enjoy life, rather than worry about all of the things that I have to get done. Life’s no fun if you’re just worrying!

Who are the people in your images and how do you select them? All of the work that I’m creating at the moment I’ve photographed myself. They’re actually just all my friends! I have really beautiful friends who I want to capture and celebrate. I’m always a little bit in awe of the women around me, they’re all just so strong. There’s no particular formula, it’s more just people that are individual and not afraid to be that, which I think is the really important thing behind the new body of work that I’m doing. I try to surround myself with people like that anyway, which makes my job really easy!

Where do you like to hang out when you’re not working? At galleries, mostly! Or at a good cafe. I’ve been to the pools at Bronte a lot lately, just because it’s so hot.

I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’re working on some very large paintings. Can you tell us what they are about? Sure! I’m currently making a body of work for my first solo exhibition, at Brisbane Powerhouse Museum in May. I’m really excited! It’s such a cool opportunity to be able to work in such large scale.

Where can people find your work? On my website (jesscochrane.com), or I put a lot of it on Instagram (jesscochranepaints_). Hopefully in some exhibitions in the next few months in Sydney! I have a couple of exciting little projects brewing, so I don’t think it will be too long until people can see them in a physical space, rather than on the internet. I’m also doing some live art at Groovin’ the Moo in Canberra, so if anyone’s going to that, come check it out! •

Words by Amy Willing / images copyright Jess Cochrane.

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