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IN HOUSE - Jemima Brown

Jemima Brown is the third invited artist in our IN HOUSE series of collaborations between the House of Sarah Baker and artists, illustrators and designers. IN HOUSE invites visual creatives to take over the brand's Instagram channel with their personal, bespoke responses to our fragrances. Check out our JJXXX offer inspired by Jemima's artwork and her quote about Jungle Jezebel.

Introducing Jemima Brown

Jemima Brown is a British artist, though she has strong family connections to the USA. For example, her paternal grandparents were among the Hollywood Left targeted during the McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s, which is how their family came to live in the UK. Her grandfather was the actor Phil Brown, later welcomed back into the fold by a younger Hollywood generation as Uncle Owen in Star Wars (1977). And, her father, who grew up in England, renounced his US citizenship in protest at the Vietnam War.

The reason this is relevant is in understanding her practice; that images might jump between those referencing old-time Hollywood in a very personal way—as in one of the triptychs in this project—or more recent American political topics just as easily as referencing a quintessential "Englishness” that reflects her own experience of growing up in rural England.

Jemima Brown, 'Greek Keys' (2023); triptych, mixed media (detail)

Jemima Brown, 'Greek Keys' (2023); triptych, mixed media (detail)

"It's gorgeous and very wearable in a slightly less complicated way than my other two favourites. I like it equally on me and on Laurie*. It's successfully non gendered." - Jemima Brown on Greek Keys

Jemima Brown initially studied in London, graduating with an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art. She was subsequently a Fulbright Scholar as a guest of the Graduate Program at University of California, Los Angeles.

Jemima Brown, '30,000 feet'' (1997); photo (from the 'Dolly Holidays' series.
Jemima Brown, '30,000 feet'' (1997); photo (from the 'Dolly Holidays' series

Jemima initially trained as a painter. But, it was for her work as a sculptor—and in particular a sculptor who combines other media such as performance, photography and video in her practice—that she first gained recognition. Initially known under the moniker of Jemima & Dolly Brown, one such “endurance performance” involved her taking her replica life-sized “twin sister” Dolly—later compared with the famous cloned sheep, though Dolly Brown was born a year earlier—on her travels with her for a year. Their travels were documented in photos that later extended to include sculpture versions of her partner Joe by the time they were in California.

Tits Table, 2011, wood, metal & jesmonite

A key practice in her oeuvre has been making sculptures that combine seemingly hyperrealistic casts of people with deconstructed elements in found and “poor” materials that draw on the lessons of Arte Povera. In reality, things are not as they seem. Apparently naturalistic elements (such as faces or hands) that appear to represent a real person are the result of multiple casts Jemima makes, cast from the bodies of a number of people. Using a kind of low-tech, home brew method, she cuts up the casts to create effectively non-existent “real” people. In some cases—such as in one of the images in this project—what appear to be portraits of actual people might be a combination of her own face and those of her family, reflecting this overarching engagement with the questions of who we actually are, what exactly our identity is.

In many ways, Jemima’s project for IN HOUSE is a poetic alignment of the varied elements within her broader practice over the years within one project. Three triptychs—a triptych of triptychs for the nerdy—follow a set of clear “rules” created by Jemima in response to the Sarah Baker fragrances that have inspired her.

Jemima Brown, 'Gold Spot' (2023); triptych, mixed media (detail)
"It makes me feel expensive and unattainable in a way that is just for me and gives me confidence. It's like a shield to repel unwanted attention and (makes me) feel good about myself on my own terms." - Jemima Brown on Gold Spot

Each triptych starts with an abstract, perhaps reflecting her artistic roots as a painter and deconstructionist sculptor. It moves on to a central photograph featuring the bottle of the fragrance in question, staged in a way that maps onto her practice whereby she photographs installations she’s created, in this case consciously referencing the tradition of the still life. And it ends with a painterly portrait, again circling back to her work as a painter, but also very much echoing portraiture projects such as her epic series Profile Pictures (2009-2012). She initiated this large-scale series of works on paper whilst heavily pregnant with her son, adapting to the situation of later pregnancy that limited her usual activity as a sculptor—even more so when he was a tiny human demanding attention and care—by making a drawing of each of her Facebook friends' profile photos.

Jemima Brown, 'Untitled Profile Pictures' (2009-12), watercolour on paper
Jemima Brown, 'Untitled Profile Pictures' (2009-12), watercolour on paper

Jemima Brown’s IN HOUSE for Sarah Baker

In her IN HOUSE project, the conceptual premise is even more heavily governed by self-imposed rules created by the artist, whilst always containing deeply personal elements that might not be obvious at first sight.

For example, in the triptych inspired by Gold Spot, the central photograph surrounds the bottle with, among other things, her father’s scarf, jewellery made by her Grandmother Ginny, chocolate, and Jemima’s silk kimono. The references to the heyday of Hollywood are there again in the final image, based on an earlier video work that conflated Jemima’s face with that of her grandmother Ginny, a Hollywood starlet whose career was cut short by the McCarthyite purges of the 1950s.

Jemima Brown, 'Gold Spot' (2023); triptych, mixed media

In the second triptych, inspired by Greek Keys, Jemima states that sources of inspiration include: “sweaty salty sandy teenage son, the North Sea, wearing of Greek Keys, his wetsuit, seaweed and stones from Stone Bay”. Some years ago Jemima moved her studio and family to the Kent coast in Southeast England and there is an almost knowing nod to a connection between days swimming in the Pacific when she lived in California and swimming in the North Sea: California might have the sunshine, but the Pacific is almost as cold. In this case, the joyous Greek Isles become an almost aspirational idea evoked by the fragrance.

Jemima Brown, 'Greek Keys' (2023); triptych, mixed media

Jungle Jezebel is the starting point for the third triptych. The key figure within this triptych is the Dutch artist, performer and nightclub personality who has had as many professional names as cosmetic surgery procedures— MC de Waal, Martin Duval, Maxime Duval etc. Ultimately a very serious artist whose work is soundly based on preceding photography and “body art” canons, Maxime is arguably too easily taken at (lifted) face value; consumed as spectacle in terms of polygender personas. However, one suspects that the reason s/he is an inspiration here is that Jemima got to know Maxime during the various exhibitions in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium where their work was included together and immediately respected that the quality of Martin/Maxime's work as an artist is not the same as how the public “read” this diva’s personas.

Jemima Brown, 'Jungle Jezebel' (2023); triptych, mixed media

"Jungle Jezebel is kind of so pornographic I almost feel it is inappropriate to wear it in public, but then I wear it anyway because it's fun and I'll do what I want." - Jemima Brown on Jungle Jezebel

More about Jemima Brown

Jemima Brown has shown in respected galleries and institutions internationally. Her most recent solo shows were the West Berkshire Museum, Newbury and Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, in the UK. Other solo shows and projects in the UK include Paper, Manchester; The Agency, London; Rosy Wild, London; Jeffrey Charles, London; and Vilma Gold, London, a.o. She also had a solo exhibition at Standpoint, London as the recipient of the 2011 Mark Tanner Sculpture Award.

Jemima Brown, 'Family' (2008), 2008, fabric, clothing, plastics, wood and hair
Jemima Brown, 'Family' (2008), 2008, fabric, clothing, plastics, wood and hair

International solo shows include those at Artspace Witzenhausen, Amsterdam; Otto, Copenhagen; MC Magma, Milan; Cookie Snoei, Rotterdam and PUSH Art, San Francisco.

Her work has been exhibited in numerous group shows in commercial galleries and institutions internationally. Just a few of her credits include Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham (UK); Stedelijk Museum Schiedam (Netherlands); Studio Voltaire, London; Kunsthal, Rotterdam; Akershus Kunstsenter, Oslo; Eaglerock Arts Centre, Los Angeles; MAMA, Rotterdam; Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium (Norway); Royal Academy, London; De Bond Musuem of Fine Art, Bruges; Pompidou Centre, Paris; and Philadelphia Museum of Art, among numerous others.

Jemima Brown, 'The Great Indoors' (2019), Installation view, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury
Jemima Brown, 'The Great Indoors' (2019), Installation view, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury

She has been the recipient of several Arts Council England awards and was awarded the Cocheme Fellowship – Residency, Byam Shaw School of Art, UAL, London in 2006. In addition to her practice as an artist, she has made numerous publications and also curated an itinerant project named ‘Family Viewing’. She lives and works in Broadstairs, UK.

To learn more about Jemima and her work, visit his website here.

Curator text: Ken Pratt

Keep an eye on our Instagram channel: the next artists are already creating their own works inspired by the house. We're doing it IN HOUSE.


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