I absolutely adore Melbourne-based artist Jesse Dayan’s stunning interiors and domestic portraits — atmospheric and contemplative, they’re rich in color, and evoke feelings of home, relationships, and memory. Much more at the links below!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I spent my childhood in a small town of about 300 people in Victoria Australia, after school there wasn’t much else to do but go for long walks in the red gum forests that skirt the Murray River. I live in the city of Melbourne now but in a funny way I think my formative years of walking alone and dreaming about the larger world outside of the town I lived in are somewhat analogous to my life of an artist working alone in a studio.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
My mother is a painter and when we were children there was often an easel set up in the kitchen or on the veranda but I was never much interested in making art until I was at university studying engineering. I knew engineering wasn’t the career I wanted to pursue and in fact couldn’t imagine fitting into any kind of career. Somehow I found myself exploring the art folio section of the university library. It began to be a ritual for me to take a pile of books and spend the day exploring the world of painting. I would leave the library with my vision pulsing to the visual rhythms of the artists I was looking at that day, it gave me a kind of peace and excitement I hadn’t before experienced. Soon after I quit studying engineering and began learning to make art.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
Much of my recent work has been about reconnecting with the kind of Post-Impressionist and Modernist paintings that made me want to be a painter in the first place. My work used to be a lot about pursuing a mastery of technique in order to describe what I could see, now I’m much more interested in making visible what I feel. The depictions of these feeling are often more primitive and raw but the capacity for the results to surprise me is exciting.
What is your process like?
I like to draw an idea many times over, not particularly looking for perfection but just to turn around the idea in my mind, once the subject feels familiar to me I begin painting. Sometimes the composition will be derived directly from a drawing but most often it will change during the painting process. I find it much more enjoyable to improvise and follow a possibility that may arise during the process of painting rather than to execute a completely premeditated plan. I used to try to address every problem or idea I had within the one painting. I’m learning to let go of paintings sooner, to allow them to be artifacts of a particular stage of development and mode of execution.
I often can’t help but make references to the painters I admire, I think of it as having a conversation with them about a particular theme. Sometimes I start with a reference already in mind other times as I am making something I will be reminded of a work I know and I will check in and see what connections there might be between the works.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I’m lucky to have a close friend who is also as passionate about painting as I am, we give each other much motivation and honest feedback. It’s important to find someone who will give you informative honest feedback. I’ve also often returned to Matisse’s Notes of a Painter for motivation. I’m grateful I chose to ignore the overwhelming negativity about figurative painting I encountered at art school.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Dedicating time, energy and money to something without knowing what the outcome will be.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I’m working on paintings of my sister’s dog Alke, she’s a very expressive and cooperative model.