Contemporary Art

Indulge in Juicy! A New Exhibition by Florence Houston

Isla Phillips-Ewen 26 October 2023 min Read

Taking place at J/M Gallery, London, Florence Houston‘s upcoming exhibition Juicy! (1-7 November 2023) showcases delectable still lifes. Combining food and art, nostalgic objects, and the ultimate fetishes, Juicy! is the inaugural solo exhibition by classically-trained contemporary artist Florence Houston. Her paintings spark interesting conversations about the intersection of art, history, and gastronomy.

The artist describes “juicy” as a term consistently used to convey a profound sense of excitement in painting. It encompasses elements such as color, texture, brushwork, and even the very act of squeezing paint from the tube. This visceral sensation serves as an instinctive compass guiding the artist’s creative journey. The central theme in all of their work revolves around beauty, a quality they are acutely attuned to, and their primary aspiration is to discover and replicate it in their paintings.

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Serious Silliness

Both satisfying and comedic, Florence’s work elevates everyday objects.

 

Still lifes have such a strange suspenseful quality to them – I don’t think they ever seem appetizing. From experience, I know that your composition tends to sit there only to rot or mold as you work on it. I think I chose food as I’d always swing by the supermarket on my way into the studio and look at the colorful aisles of food. The repetitive disposability of them made me want to take the time and effort to paint them. I like taking their mundanity seriously.

Florence Houston

Interview with Isla Phillips-Ewen for DailyArt Magazine, October 2023.

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I really enjoy taking something that feels disregarded or unimportant and painting it seriously, really cherishing it. There’s something comedic about it, but I also want to show how beautiful those things can be. It’s very satisfying painting a plastic bag or a jelly using exactly the same material and technique that’s been used to paint centuries of kings, popes, and other pomp and glory.

Florence Houston

Interview with MIGNONNETTE London.

Juicy Victorian Jelly

The main theme of the exhibition Juicy! is Jelly. These pieces came to be in collaboration with the London based food stylist, Lou Kenney. Kenney has an interest in historical foods, so Florence Houston sent her some illustrations of Victorian jellies. For several months they worked in Florence’s studio, unmolding and assembling jellies, before leaving them to be rapidly painted before mold set in.

 

Jelly, for example, feels like what oil paint was created for; the luster, saturation, and shine are a thrill to paint.

Florence Houston

Interview with MIGNONNETTE London.

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I want viewers to find my paintings beautiful, amusing and perhaps a little sinister… A few years ago I had a studio mouse. Some morning I’d arrive to find little vermillion footprints all over the place. He seemed to like exploring my painting table. One day I came in and found him dead, floating in my bottle of linseed oil, he must’ve knocked the lid off and somehow squeezed himself down through the neck. It’s such a terrible way to die. I was horrified, but all the same, I kept the bottle with me ever since and eventually painted him. He reminds me of the fruit suspended in my jellies. In Fruitification my big jelly, the huge, distorted blueberries seemed so sinister when I was painting them, dark strange shapes appearing and disappearing, hanging there, airless.

Florence Houston

Interview with Isla Phillips-Ewen for <em>DailyArt Magazine</em>, October 2023.

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Not Just Juicy Jelly

Although most of the pieces in the exhibition are culinary still lifes there are some exceptions. One theme seems to be the use of plastic bags. As they become less and less common, plastic bags begin to feel nostalgic.

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I think I was attracted to them not only because I find them all beautiful, but also I like the idea of grandly lighting and composing them as though they are performers on stage. The plastic of the bags is actually a very beautiful material when you forget everything you know about plastic bags. Although plastic bags are hopefully on the way out, the lack of plastic bags has made them feel nostalgic, it’s actually very hard to find that clear thin plastic bag in London now and the blue and white feels vintage!

Florence Houston

Interview with Isla Phillips-Ewen for DailyArt Magazine, October 2023.

Florence Houston: Florence Houston, Oranges in Plastic, oil in plastic, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

Florence Houston, Oranges in Plastic, oil in plastic, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

Notice the Paint!

Florence trained for four years at Charles Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. There she learned the painterly techniques of the old masters such as Valazquez and Sargent. Although she doesn’t currently grind her own paint because of the toxicity it is getting harder to buy lead white and vermilion – perhaps she may dust off the gas mask once more.

My medium of choice is oil paint. I love its thick buttery colors and its scope for different effects and textures.

Florence Houston

Interview with Voyage Houston, July 27th 2018.

There is currently a revival and interest in painting, which enthuses Florence.  Painting speaks to years of dedication and disciplined study and that adds so much to an artwork.

Notice the paint. Paint often feels like a necessity, a means to an end, rather than a focal point. In some of my paintings the paint is the main focus and for the big ones I have to switch to a much larger palette for space. The process is much more physical because of the sheer amount of paint I mix and carefully apply with each brushstroke. At the moment I’m inspired by husband and wife painters Colleen Barry and Will St. John. They had the years of intense classical training but their work feels contemporary. I love their stuff.

Florence Houston

Interview with Isla Phillips-Ewen for DailyArt Magazine, October 2023.

Florence Houston: Florence Houston, Three Rhubarb Martinis, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

Florence Houston, Three Rhubarb Martinis, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

Other artists that inspire Florence’s work are Félix Vallotton, Wayne Thiebaud, René Gruau, Patrick Procktor and Édouard Vuillard.

Juicy! takes place at J/M Gallery, London, 1-7 November 2023.

 

Florence Houston: Florence Houston in the studio, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

Florence Houston in the studio, 2023. Courtesy of the J/M Gallery, London.

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