The Art of Wellbeing

Amber Magazine interviews Jess Cochrane at an event by Soho Curious & Co.

Art by Jess Cochrane.

Earlier this week we attended Soho Curious & Co’s event The Art of Wellbeing. It was all about wellness and how art therapy can help us all in positive ways. There were some really important conversations on how the modern world of ‘perfection’ culture and social media bubbles have an effect on our wellbeing, especially considering so many of us struggle from depression and anxiety. There was a panel talk from Rich Simmons, Mimi Gray, and Gabriela Kamienski and a short film by Rebecca Naen all about women embracing who they are. After this Amber Mag’s founder Amber Schormans interviewed the wonderful artist Jess Cochrane, which can be found below! Jess is an amazing woman who creates such powerful and unique art with an important message.

Jess I really love your work after looking at it I just really empowered and intrigued and I want to ask what’s the main message you want people to take away from your work?

Ok in short, the main message I would like people to take away from my work Is that there is a great power and strength in being vulnerable and sharing that vulnerability. I think it allows and helps us to have a better conversation and create more space.

With this event being about well-being as well, I find for me that creativity is really important for my wellbeing, and I was wondering how when you do your pieces and create them that affects your well-being?

Positively! I think there’s a lot to be said about as rich was saying earlier, there is so much good creativity can do for your well-being. When I started to make art in this way, I was a very anxious person in quite a bad way and prone to panic attacks. So for me when I had the chance to be in a room and paint it was about focusing and the calming physical action of painting was very satisfying to me.

For me I have anxiety and panic attacks too, and art is a means to switch off from everything external. I went to a life drawing classy other day and it was amazing, it definitely helped me to switch off, and when you’re painting do you feel like you in your own space and world?

Yes working for me I get in a little zone and I’ve always have so much enjoyment from just the act of painting I think that’s also why art therapy is so good for so many people, it’s the act of doing something repetitive and meditative, I think that’s super important. To carry on from Sarah’s question before about the importance of looking up from your phone, in a busy city like London I think it’s is super important to be able to look at art and the small things on your daily route to work. I would like to reiterate the importance of education in art and ways of looking at the world visually outside of the general maths English and science box. I think if more people had the opportunity to really embrace seeing things visually from an artistic or creative perspective we might have more of a cure for things such as anxiety or getting stuck in a little Instagram bubble. Art education is super important!

Definitely, I feel like this is touching upon what you just said, we are aware in fashion in advertising that there is a lack of diversity and representation that obviously has a negative impact on mental health do you think any of this is reflected in fine art or do you think is just completely different and a safe space?

For me I have always viewed art is one of the most open and freeing spaces where you are allowed to be yourself, and if you look at any artist it is a freedom of expression. So in that sense I think it is one of the most freeing spaces that we having world. In terms of diversity and the visuals it can be down to the artist and the topic. But for me it has always been the most diverse and freeing space, if you have something that you can’t express with words this is a space where you can express it in other ways which is super important to have.

Art by Jess Cochrane

I totally agree! I also really like how your work is a mix of mediums as well, how did you come across that?

For anyone who doesn’t know in the room I paint over photographs, so I take a photograph of the subject and I will edit it a bit in Lightroom, and make it into an editorial style and perfect it as much I can. The best part for me is then getting to print out on paint over it. What I am mimicking in my work as well is this idea of a very structured and restricted stereotype of a perfect person and then getting to paint over that and warp the body or add to it in a really expressive way. It is still sticking to a set of design rules if you will so therefore compositionally is still very beautiful to look at, but also a little bit harder to look at because it is just a little bit grotesque and we just live in a ‘perfect’ world now.

The way I came about that is while I was growing up my dad was always very passionate about art. He’s been an art teacher for quite a long time and he does life drawing classes and teaches people the basics of art and painting and is an incredible dude. When he saw that I took an interest in art at a young age and I was copying images from Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazine, he said you want to come to life during class because if you want to learn about drawing the human body and anatomy that’s the best place to learn. And so my upbringing has this weird contradiction of going to an art or life drawing class and seeing beautiful real-life bodies, and learning how to draw curves and appreciating this real and raw image. But then went home and read cosmopolitan magazine and how to put my make-up on so the boys would like me like what the fuck, that contradiction was very visible to me.

When it came to being at university I was at art school studying graphic design and being very into layout and invisible grids and thinking about how our whole lives are designed to set of principles these days. I had is really great teacher who said draw the day to day and question the things that you think need questioning, so I had life drawing and then really photoshopped images of women and I wanted to see myself in both and I just sort of started questioning it. So I just started painting over magazines, my first work for university was a whole series of images ripped out of magazines that I collected for years and painted over. It filled this whole space in the university hall and it was almost like walking into an Instagram feed but having the whole thing really warped. It made me realise that what I do is almost the clash of where reality and the warped perception of what we feel like we should be meet. And then I started taking my own images for copyright reasons.

I think we’re so used to seeing perfected images that aren’t real of the same type of woman, so I think it’s really important to see different types of women. And then you also kind of break this perfection with the painting in such a beautiful and organic way, I think it’s really nice.

There was also a breakthrough moment for me, I don’t know if anybody else in the room has ever collected magazines that they really loved, but tearing them up and destroying and reshaping them was super important for me.

Do you have anything new coming up that you can tell us about such as the love letters and how you came about that?

I’m working on a show for next month at the moment which is exciting and stressful because it’s very soon, it’s hopefully going to be showcased in conversation with works by Francis Bacon which is very special and exciting.

I have also just for fun started making these love letters, because it’s my work I don’t really do any preliminary prep for work as then it just becomes too contrived, it’s just a very gestural free sort of act. But I do still take magazine images and cut them up and rework them for the sake of practising and thinking a certain way. And then I thought that it would be quite nice to share that with people, ever since I started doing the lipstick works as well as an act of love and self-love and the ideas around making love letters seemed like a fun idea. So I just have been smashing out love letters and sending out to people, so you get a lucky dip is twenty pounds and you get a one off little illustration with a little love sentence. It’s fun and it feels good, it’s nice to put out good vibes.

We were talking about it earlier but I think it’s really nice to have something positive that’s not cheesy and is something different.

I think is the idea of well-being and self-love and feminism being just like buzzwords these days, so I think for me it’s really important to not be so polished about it, well-being isn’t necessarily just about what we know you have to look at yourself and it’s scary but it’s important and there is a strength in vulnerability.

That’s all of my questions, thank you Jess!

There will be more from Jess Cochrane in the next issue of Amber Magazine!

Below there are some more photographs from the event photographed by Ambereen Khan.


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