'Before the Silt and Flies', 2021 © Edward Jones. 2/3, Oil on Cotton Paper, 57 x 65 cm.

Artist's Spotlight: 2022 ACS x City & Guilds UG Prize, Edward Jones
May 17, 2024
In the latest instalment of our 'Artist Spotlight' series, we talk to Edward Jones, the winner of 2022 ACS x City & Guilds of London Art School Undergraduate Prize about his work, how his practice will benefit from the Prize and what projects he has coming up next.

How would you define your work in three words?


Introspective, Quiet, Foreboding.


What medium do you mainly work with and why?


My introduction to art was through traditional printmaking. I chose to study at City and Guilds of London Art School for the quality of their Etching Department and subsequently spent the majority of my BA first year exploring viscosity print etchings. Realising my devotion to colour, I began painting in oils as my capacity to control layers of tone increased dramatically. Making large-scale paintings is now essential to my studio practice, artworks that have an immersive quality, authored light and a very careful, nuanced surface. Working primarily with high-quality oils has enabled me to have ultimate control over my paintings. I can now always mix the exact tone required with a really good pigment-to-oil ratio.


I find that working with traditional mediums and techniques allows for an interesting connection to Art History. These materials are not only extremely versatile but also have so much space for scrutiny, where they can truly be pushed to their own physical limits.


Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?


Throughout my life, I have consistently sought adventure in the mountains, particularly in Snowdonia, where my parents and grandparents taught me the importance of embracing the natural elements and the harshness and charm of life in such areas.  Having subsequently moved away from the area, I have continuously felt a craving to be immersed in rugged terrain; Images of weathered and beaten buildings abandoned mines and factories, relics of the history of places and people constantly populate my mind.


My recent paintings exemplify my affection for these places that I grew up in, and other places, visited but not lived in, that resonate with me in the very same way.

Can you describe for us the working process behind your paintings?

Working from my journals and photographic output from expeditions, I start to make drawings, using ink, oils and stopout varnish. This process of separating my ideas from research and out of the photographic realm is essential to the development of my own image-making.


The drawings accompany the canvases on the studio wall and I begin painting by blocking in large areas of tonally equal colours to fill the first layer. From here, details and further thin layers will be added, utilising a technique of non-systemic patterning that eventually resembles a camouflaged surface. I always allow the process of painting to take over from what I am doing; mark-making and nuanced chromatic choices dictate almost all outcomes.

My ambition is consistently to employ a dark and subtle palette that should slow down the reading of the work, hopefully in a very similar way to Ad Reinhardt’s ’black paintings’ black paintings. Being a figurative painter, this system does have its challenges and I spend a vast amount of time on finishing touches that pull the artwork back towards its composition in the drawings. The careful layering of paint provides depth in the colours of the flatly painted surface, which can be juxtaposed in certain areas allowing for a somewhat illusory perspective.


Can you remember the first work of art that you created? What was it and why was it so memorable?


I visited the Walker Gallery in Liverpool many times as a teenager and I distinctly remember being drawn to Peter Doig’s 1993 John Moores Painting Prize winner, ‘Blotter’ on almost every occasion. It had a huge influence on almost all of the work I was making at that time, but more specifically some of the first etchings I made: trying to replicate the texture of the painting in the form of printmaking was a challenge, but this process opened up so many possibilities with traditional etching. Combining inspiration from Peter Doig and Stanley William Hayter’s guide to viscosity printing, I made a series of abstract colour-field works, resulting in my introduction to the symbolic and emotional power of colour. These prints still resonate with me today and are useful colour study tools, which I guess is why they are so memorable.

What does it mean to you to win the 2022 ACS x City & Guilds of London Art School Undergraduate Prize?


It means an inordinate amount to have won the 2022 ACS x City & Guilds of London Art School Undergraduate Prize. Gaining recognition for the hard work and risks that I have taken really boosted my confidence at such a crucial time. Going into the final year of my BA in Fine Art I had the drive to produce far better and more successful artworks. I could also scale up the paintings, use high-quality materials and most importantly spend more time in the studio. Combining the confidence with financial support accelerated my progression beyond anything I could imagine.


How do you intend to use the prize money?


Having now completed my BA I am confident that every bit of the prize money was used to its full potential. Before I began my final year I embarked on a research trip to Patagonia, partly funded with some of the prize money. This expedition into South America’s most southerly mountains, forests and deserts captivated my imagination; it was an experience that not only benefited my art practice enormously but also widened my senses and exposed me to another realm of artworks, history and culture. This experience permeated into all of my artworks and consolidated my ideas.


Back in the studio, I began making a series of large paintings that would not have been financially viable without the prize money. These new works really pushed my limits and were the focal elements of my Degree Show at City and Guilds of London Art School. With the exhibition now over, I am delighted to say that the show was a success and I managed to sell all available works. I cannot overstate the value of the generosity of the Artists’ Collecting Society’s support throughout my studies, without their help almost all the outcomes of my degree would not have been possible.

What do you have coming up over the next year?

In September I plan to undertake a month-long residency programme in Montenero Val Cocchiara, Italy and upon my return, I will be exhibiting in the Freelands Painting Prize 2023 from October - November.


I am also extremely excited to enter a new chapter into a professional art practice, to make new works; exhibiting early next year at Rebecca Hossack Gallery for the Gilchrist Fisher Award 2024. Whilst I already feel so fortunate to have my current schedule, there is so much more hard work ahead and I feel ready to face the challenges.


To view more works by Edward Jones, visit his website here.