Appropriating methods traditionally identified with feminine pursuits – embroidery and needlework – Jessica Rankin’s work features a series of ‘mental maps’, with codes, signs and symbols that explore ideas of memory, intuition and interpretation.
Rankin’s embroidered paintings begin with coloured panels of organdy, a fabric known for its sheer, diaphanous quality. Into this material the artist stitches renderings of mountain terrains, thermodynamic charts and astronomical maps, all of which mutate into lines of text before collapsing back into landscape drawing. The text assumes an abstract quality, executed in capital letters that call to mind the embroidered works of Alighiero Boetti. Taking the form of random thought patterns, these strings of words slip into phrases that avoid narrative structure from one to the other
An interest in Surrealist and concrete poetry is evident in the work, with the arrangement of words as objects and rhythmic lines that form an integral part of the imagery.
Rankin’s compositions are influenced on one level by personal experience – a road trip, camping under the night sky or snippets of conversation – and on a more universal level, by cartographic, cosmological or genetic diagrams, amongst others. Commencing with what she terms ‘a decisive act’ – a particular phrase or image – these elements develop organically, winding through the work like a street or river. Positioned several inches from the wall, the translucence of the organdy enables the forms to reverberate, casting faint shadows on the surface behind. As a whole, Rankin sees the structure of the work as an ‘embodiment of thought’.
Jessica Rankin was born in 1971 in Sydney, Australia and lives and works in New York. Solo and duo exhibitions include Touchstones Rochdale, UK (2017); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2016); Salon 94, New York (2014); Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta (2013); The Project, New York (2009); MoMA PS1, New York (2006); and Franklin Artworks, Minneapolis (2005). Group exhibitions include The Uptown Triennial, New York (2017); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2015); Fie Myles, New York (2011); Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco (2011); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2006); The Project, Los Angeles (2005); and Artist’s Space, New York (2003).