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Exhibition: Jessica Rankin "The Nostalgia for the Infinite" at White Cube Bermondsey

Updated: Jul 16, 2021


After years of gaining critical acclaim for her larger-than-life embroideries, collages, and watercolours that combine landscapes and celestial maps with signs, texts, codes, and symbols, Jessica Rankin brings Londoners back to White Cube Bermondsey with a recent body of works that enriches the language of painting with the extra dimensionality of thread.


By seizing methods traditionally linked to feminine pursuits (needlework and embroidery), she transforms the canvas into a synergetic meeting place/space between handcraft and modernist abstract painting.

Jessica Rankin High Thought Tunes, PC, 2020 Acrylic, ink and embroidery on linen 182.9 x 243.8 cm | 72 x 96 in.
Jessica Rankin, High Thought Tunes, PC, 2020, Acrylic, ink, and embroidery on linen 182.9 x 243.8 cm | 72 x 96 in.

Jessica Rankin developed this new approach in the aftermath of the 2016 US election. She responded to a period of intense, personal struggle - not just for her, but for many artists - by focusing more on concepts like desire, joy, intimacy, and tenderness and how these states can forge a space for resistance particularly in an age of political and social turmoil.


Beyond the personal experience, Rankin’s compositions are often influenced by universal experiences represented by cosmological, cartographic, or genetic diagrams, amongst others.

Jessica Rankin, To Light and Then Return, ED 2020, Ink, acrylic and embroidery on linen 60 × 60 in. (152.4 × 152.4 cm)
Jessica Rankin, To Light and Then Return, ED 2020, Ink, acrylic, and embroidery on linen 60 × 60 in. | 152.4×152.4 cm
Jessica Rankin, Warm Dawn, BH  2020  Ink, acrylic and embroidery on linen  30 × 30 in. (76.2 × 76.2 cm)
Jessica Rankin, Warm Dawn, BH,2020 Ink, acrylic, and embroidery on linen 30 × 30 in. | 76.2 × 76.2 cm

Fusing mind maps and symmetry with asymmetry, Rankin intuitively deals with both the "ends and beginnings of life and matter" by drawing on a wide range of subjects and themes, ranging from personal experience to memory, poetry, and literature.

Jessica Rankin, A Breath Between, PC, 2020, Acrylic and embroidery on linen 76.2 x 76.2 cm | 30 x 30 in.
Jessica Rankin, A Breath Between, PC, 2020, Acrylic and embroidery on linen 76.2 x 76.2 cm | 30 x 30 in.

Rankin relies on the dynamic interplay of her materials, where the painted mark meets the sewn line and where the sewn line continues, complicates, or interrupts the painted gesture.

Jessica Rankin, Strange Currents, EA, 2020.
Jessica Rankin, Strange Currents, EA, 2020, Ink, acrylic and embroidery on linen 182.9 x 243.8 cm | 72 x 96 in.

Inspired by Etel Adnan’s 2012 book "Sea and Fog" (2012) and having fragments of Adnan’s text embroidered on the edges, Strange Currents, EA (2020) is a captivating fusion between areas of densely sewn threads similar to flight paths mapping and gestural paint marking that recall celestial expansion. The unfolding sense of space given by the blurred shapes and filtered light almost turns the flat surface of the painting into a sculpture that is being glimpsed while traveling through at speed.

From a distance, paint splashes of rich pinks, bright yellows, and deep blues cannot be distinguished from stitches. As we're drawn closer, dense areas of slow stitching organically contrast with free-flowing, thinly painted stains of vivid colour spread across the canvas.

Rhythmic lines become an "embodiment of thought," forming an integral part of the imagery.

Jessica Rankin, Eros once Again, 2020 Acrylic, ink, graphite, watercolour and embroidery thread on paper 45.7 x 61 cm | 18 x 24 in.
Jessica Rankin, Eros once Again, 2020 Acrylic, ink, graphite, watercolour and embroidery thread on paper 18 x 24 in.

This shift between mediums and density conjures an unexpected sense of movement, rhythm, and physical energy that opens pools of visual possibilities similar to modernist abstract painting.

Just like spines on a book, some of Rankin's works have additional threads and fragments of text, or quotes on the sides, giving statements voiced by Emily Dickinson, Etel Adnan, Cecil Taylor, Hélène Cisoux, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Paul Celan, and Clarice Lispector a new life. These arrangements of words as objects evoke her interest in concrete poetry and Surrealism.

I Am Not Quite You But Almost, FO'H  2020  Ink, acrylic and embroidery on linen  Diptych, each; 48 × 48 in. (121.9 × 121.9 cm)
Jessica Rankin, I Am Not Quite You But Almost, 2020, Ink, acrylic and embroidery on linen Diptych, each, 48×48 in.

Jessica Rankin

Jessica Rankin was born in 1971 in Sydney, Australia. She now lives and works in New York City. The White Cube

Since 1993, The White Cube Gallery has consistently championed masterpieces by the most influential contemporary artists such as Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, and Anselm Kiefer, establishing its artistic programme as one of the world's most defining of our times.


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