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Jo Hummel - Phenomenologist

The work of Jo Hummel plays with my mind.

Textures of pulpy paper, broken by serrated colour make my eyes feel like finger tips. They brush around the curving shapes, run along the surface, feeling the softer feathery edges.

Simultaneously, Jo’s shaped paper, arranged and angled, seems to fragment my sense of direction. The videos I’ve seen of the artist at work, moving around her canvas, negotiating the positioning of painted paper from all angles, seems to inform my very body of a similar choreographed movement. I want to cock my head sideways and look at her artwork from the side or beneath.

And that is just my visceral experience of her work.

I went to see Jo, to find out all about her work and this is what she told me:

“I paint with paper. I use spontaneously applied space, colour and form with sheets of paper. The conceptual narrative being that I am unpicking thought processes and understanding consciousness.”

Jo tells me that this exploration of internal states and understanding the immediate experience of one’s own consciousness is being described as Phenomenology.

“It is basically where you become your own subject of research to do with consciousness. I like to describe my work more as a scientific study than a creative pursuit because it’s driven by the experiences that producing these compositions gives to me.

“I am trying to narrate the experience of being creative with all the spectrum of emotional responses that this might give you, for example anxiousness, serenity or fear.

During the process, I attempt to remove the conditioned parts of my mind that would say “oh you can’t do that, that’s way to minimal” or “the expectation is to over do things” or “have lots of colour”. Or even that “it has to be pleasing ascetically”.

I’m chewing on those feelings like a toffee, forcing myself to question my reactions of fear, or repulsion like “eurgh why is that purple and orange so disgusting?” And forcing myself into this experience, I am just a sort of vessel, trying to escape from all of those preconditioned ideas and reactions.”

“My inspiration is the mind, but it’s also the paper!

I became interested in paper because I used to collect hand written notes. I used to go to galleries and an oil painting would look over worked to me - but a little sketch on some paper, or a preliminary sketch was what I was interested in. It felt honest and not pretentious or overbearing.

Paper is a material that we all touch; we read our books and we open our presents and we have our birthday cards. It’s a material that we’re all connected to. It’s just a beautiful material and yet it’s also becoming less and less part of our lives.”

Finally, we talk about beginning artists and her advise for people just starting out.

“Something that I am really, genuinely invested in is communicating the importance of making art without fear because I think that’s an issue with a lot of people,” Jo tells me. “It can bring to the surface a lot of negative feelings, whether it’s criticism of themselves or failure.

I always say to people, do it for the sheer joy. Even quite established artists forget this. Do it for the sheer joy – for yourself. Always. No matter if you’re just setting out or if you’ve been doing it for years … Do it for the value it gives your life.”

This is the piece of artwork that Jo has kindly donated to the Bopha School Of Art Night.

Its title is Fresco.

YOu can see more of Jo's work on her website here

Or her Instagram here

If you would like any information about the Bopha School Project, please email Bethan on

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