Jenny Mc Namara (b. 1994) is an artist/designer from Dublin, living in Newcastle. She is 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 an arts organiser and runs a project called The Spaghetti Factory with Eve Cromwell, which aims to support early career artists in the North East. She’s a board member for Round Lemon and works as Gallery Manager at Gallagher & Turner.
‘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.
How we see
Learning about the mechanics of visual processing is fascinating. To understand the visual scenes we see, the scene is first split up by the brain (in the occipital cortex) 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. Better understanding these processes 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 one or two more, like shape and line. This reduction visually focuses and (I think) relaxes the viewer. Abstraction allows the viewer to use their imagination to make sense of the image, and repeating patterns use contrast (the eye is also naturally drawn to patterns salient areas that contain the most detail)
Design process mirroring neural visual processing
The way we see/understand imagery breaks down and separates visual elements: quickly distilling them out, then bringing them back together. I suspect there is a relationship between this 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.