Neither solely abstract nor representational, the paintings I make could best be described as “figurative abstracts”. I aim to create paintings whose brush-strokes teeter between signalling some form of human activity or celestial body and dissolving into arbitrary painterliness. This concern also informs my actual painting process. I usually start off with a specific image in mind which then inevitably gets lost beneath layers of loose, intuitive brush-marks. In this way the original pictorial starting point becomes translated into a more personal and abstracted painterly language.
My paintings contain a certain sense of tension as they appear to be both spontaneous and highly considered. The modest size and round shape of the canvases is intended to convey a sense of delicacy and restraint and to give the paintings a jewel like, intimate quality.
The work I make is also full of art historical references. The elegant nuances of colour and luminous light which typify eighteenth century Rocco paintings (such as those by Tiepolo) provide a rich source of inspiration for my work. The fluid brushwork and overall sensual feel of my paintings, and the way they often portray some sort of release or explosion, also echoes the curving, playful eroticism of famous Rococo artists such as Fragonard. The source material for my work, though it becomes only a touchstone as the work progresses, is often an archetypal Baroque religious picture of saints, angels or the Madonna in a swirl of billowing draperies and fleecy clouds.
The restrained palette and flowing execution of these paintings, which are part of a larger series I’m working on at the moment, is also partially a response to the work of Whistler. I find the mood of tenderness and poetry evoked in Whistler’s (1870s) Nocturnes incredibly moving and is one that I hope to achieve, at least to some extent, in my own work. The silvery light in the Nocturnes and their close tonal harmonies of blues, greys and murky greens has fed into the choice of colours I use. My present work is extremely subtle and done on a small scale so that the paintings operate on low volume, drawing the viewer in to look closer.
Linked to my interest in Old Master paintings, which frequently depict scenes of divine intervention, and in the work of Whistler, whose search for aesthetic perfection was of spiritual significance to him, is a wish to investigate notions of “spirituality” in painting. It is also connected to an attempt to express contemporary versions of, and responses to, the Sublime and the Beautiful.
Jaya Mansberger’s paintings are currently on show in ‘Informal Elements’ at OVADA, Oxford, until the 28th June 2014.