Jenny Mc Namara (b. 1994) is an artist/designer from Dublin, living in Newcastle. She’s pattern and colour obsessed and works across a range of media including LED light and sculpture. She has been awarded public funding by Arts Council England to support the development of her work.

She’s also an arts organiser and since 2018 has run a project called The Spaghetti Factory with Eve Cromwell, which aims to support early career artists in the North East. She’s the grassroots artist rep for The Clayton Street Corridor (a new cultural creative zone in development in Newcastle), vice-chair of a-n Artist Council 2022-2025, a board member for Round Lemon (an artist led organisation based in Birmingham) and works as Producer for Communities at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on the Neighbourly programme, which uses welcoming practices and creative processes to support people seeking sanctuary to rebuild their lives in the North East.

‘I explore ideas through making sculpture, painting, artist books, printmaking and curating exhibitions. My studio work is experimentation between surface, space and colour and is usually abstract. The themes I investigate are:

Effects of colour/pattern on mood
I’m interested in how visual art can be used to spark joy, communicate visual languages, elicit emotional responses and improve mental health. I’m interested in the applications of colour and pattern on our cities and every day surroundings and also the lack of it.

How we see
The mechanics of visual processing are fascinating to me. To understand the visual scenes we see, the scene is first split up by the brain (in the occipital cortex at the back of the head) into separate elements like colour, scale, orientation and contrast edges. There are groups of cells that specialise in making sense of that feature, for example there are cells that only handle colour and other groups that only handle motion. Once the separate features are processed, they are put back together and so the whole scene can be understood at higher levels of processing. Getting to know more about this process specifically informs the creation of my studio work.

The Minimalist art movement marked a shift in art theory from the object to viewer experience. In minimalist artworks, there are just a few visual elements in play. The artist designing something might start with one visual element, like colour, and bring in just one or two more, like shape and line. To me, this visual reduction makes me more focused and relaxed. Abstraction allows the viewer to use their imagination to make sense of the image, and repeating patterns use contrast (the eye is naturally drawn to patterns/salient areas that contain the most detail)

Design process mirroring neural visual processing
I suspect there is a relationship between the way we understand imagery (breaking down and separating visual elements: quickly distilling them out, then bringing them back together) and the artistic design process. The design process for me usually starts with one visual element, contrast, then I bring in others like colour.

Patterns and mindfulness
Noticing patterns allows the mind to rest and be in the present, to rely on incoming sensory data and not worry about the past or the future for a moment. I’m interested in both noticing patterns in my environment and the creation of new patterns. The sculptures I make are often ‘pattern machines’, they use reflective materials or lenses to disrupt patterns and make new ones. I sometimes explore them further by bringing them back into 2D through photography, print and painting.