Surrey Art Gallery to host talk with collage artist Susan Jessop

The Thursday Artist Talk will focus on Jessop’s artwork and her background

“High Rise” paper collage by Susan Jessop. (Submitted)

Coquitlam paper collage artist Susan Jessop doesn’t let her art stay confined to a white canvas rectangle.

Jessop will speak to viewers for a Thursday Artist Talk with the Surrey Art Gallery on May 6 from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm through Facebook Live. She says she hopes the audience will get an overview of herself as a practicing artist.

“I’m looking forward to it and it’s a great opportunity. It’s a really interesting thing as an artist to do, because as you question what you’re doing, you’re discovering more about how you work. It’s kind of like self-discovery,” says Jessop, who uses old books and magazines to create her paper collages.

Jessop also leaves scissor marks on her work and uses an exacto knife to cut precisely around the objects, and she says it’s like using Photoshop.

“When I cut something out, I leave a border around it so that you know where it’s from… I really like that because it brings more of a depth to the work. You are realizing these things come from different places, but you’re putting them together and they start to generate a story.”

Once the pieces are cut out, Jessop goes over the objects for several days to rearrange and come back to the work until something melds together.

The artist moved to Canada in 2005 from Dublin, Ireland, but grew up in Kent, a county in southeastern England. Her fascination for objects started at a young age. Near her childhood house, there is a beach that used to be a Victorian-era landfill. Jessop would find different objects there, from a Victorian porcelain doll to an old ceramic ink bottle.

“I grew up in a really old house, and I had loads of different historical objects around us. The kind of paper I collected reflected what I’m interested in, which is interior spaces, interior design, history of art books, gardening books.”

“Flight” painting by Susan Jessop. (Submitted)

Jessop says the beach and house objects in her childhood sparked her interest in showing the meaningful stories behind items, and there is an immediacy about using collage instead of other forms of art.

“When I’m painting, I never quite get the image I want,” she says. “[This way] I’m getting my ideas across in a much more meaningful way than if I was drawing or painting.”

She uses her collages as inspiration for other projects, such as her small-scale acrylic paintings series called Future Landscapes. The series reflects on the environment and what our landscapes will look like in the future. Jessop often starts her pieces by cutting shapes out of plywood with a jigsaw, then placing her collage over them afterwards.

“It’s not confined by a rectangle anymore. It becomes something else,” she says.

Although she has the freedom to shape her art in different ways, Jessop feels constrained because of the pandemic. Earlier this year, Jessop had to give up her shared studio in Vancouver with other artists and work at home.

“I miss the community I had within my shared studio. It made sense to work from home for a while until, hopefully, things get back to normal,” says Jessop.

Thrive, a networking and female support artist group Jessop participates in has helped her in the last few years to get feedback on her pieces. Although the group doesn’t talk as much about their artwork now because of the pandemic, Jessop says that it’s really important to have a dialogue with other artists.

“So you see what they’re doing and they can comment on your work. It’s much more creative I found, that way,” she says.

However, in spite of these challenges, Jessop is looking forward to the artist talk.

“I’m really interested to see what people are going to ask me. It’s always a surprise what people think of when they look at your work, and think about your work as an artist.”