The latest issue of Christie’s house magazine arrived on my desk last week. It was unexpected and a nice coincidence because there was a feature on Chillida, just as I was writing about him: Signs Of Chillida. But what was even more surprising, what made me sing and dance, were four lovely pages of Jelly Green! She was interviewed at home in Suffolk for a piece entitled Rural Revival.
Jelly Green’s person, studio and paintings are as intriguing and eccentric as her name. A slip of a thing, Jelly (short for Angelica of course) has creative energy in every fibre of her being. Aged twenty, she studies with a group of artists under Maggi Hambling RA, eschewing the art school route. She explains: ‘I am painting in a traditional way that art schools don’t have a lot of time for.’ Hambling, famous for her superb paintings and her caustic wit, is unswervingly supportive; and Jelly is already commanding attention and strong sales in galleries in London, Suffolk and at the imminent Art Festival Presteigne in Wales.
In a rural Suffolk village stands the Green family house, a former chapel. A peacock walks past the elegant, crumbling entrance of a building with more paint falling off the walls than hanging on; a ramshackle, utterly glamorous style that shows all the architectural bones beautifully. The structure, hardly touched when they made it into their home, has workspaces for any family member who needs one. Her Australian father runs arts festivals, her Suffolk-born mother is doing a PhD on folk stories, her siblings are at university, one doing music, the other philosophy. The panelled double doors are thrown open even though the day is arctically cold, and a huge woodburner roars inside, giving off no apparent heat. The double-height rooms soar into the roof space. Jelly works on the balcony above the main room. She, her parents and sister are all wearing coats and hats.
Outside is certainly inside in her studio – her work focuses largely on cows. ‘I was on a trip to the Isle of Wight with Maggi’s art group,’ she explains. ‘I was sent to find something to paint, and a herd of cows appeared on the beach. I was reminded of the cows in my granddad’s herd that I’ve loved since childhood, and I thought, suddenly, that they were what I wanted to paint. I start with the nose. I love the nose.’ For two years Jelly retreated into her bedroom and painted more than 300 cows. She still hasn’t tired of them as a subject.
This artistic environment is both relaxed and accommodating; a haven and a melting pot of ideas. One feels that the house itself has been an influence. Jelly agrees: ‘When we were little we painted a beach scene on the kitchen walls. Then I painted angels all over my bedroom walls. Really, the house is all studio. Or a work in progress.’
The same might be said of Jelly herself, poised on the brink of everything, with an incredible portfolio of work already behind her.
Jelly Green shows with the Rowley Gallery, 115 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7LN.
This feature is courtesy of Rafaella Barker and quoted from the June-July 2013 issue of Christie’s.