Working primarily with photography and performance, Fairbrother’s interest is in an inner, emotional landscape and her practice utilises the external body as a site for artist enquiry and self-expression. This most often takes the form of highly individualised photographic self-portraits of her naked body, painstakingly embellished with minuscule needle perforations or hand embroidered so that the very surface of the print carries a counterpoint narrative.
“When I first began to stitch, it was from a place of great urgency. I later realised the purpose was an attempt to tether myself to a happy ending, literally and metaphorically sewing myself to something I yearned for, but was never going to be mine. When I use no thread at all, just the perforation of the needle, it stems from the deeply felt sense I have been severed from all those possibilities… there is nothing to bind me. I drift and make my own story.”
The two new bodies of work presented here exemplify and continue her unique approach.
In Constellations (2018), Fairbrother punctures the surface of the print creating intricate lace like patterns around the photographed figure, inspired by religious icons and ancient sculptures of female deities. The raised pattern also echoes braille embossing, suggesting a more tactile consideration of the work and alternative readings.
Coordinates (2019) emerged from a fascination with the systems we employ to make sense of the world. Fairbrother uses a needle and thread to trace her own emotional topography by sewing directly on to the photography of her own body, revealing hidden contour lines.
Jessa Fairbrother completed an MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster (2008-10) and developed her practice while working as both lecturer and journalist. In 2016 she produced the body of work Conversations with my mother as a limited-edition Artist Book with hand-perforated images, now held in various collections including Yale Center for British Art (New Haven, US) and libraries at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (US).