Artist Interview: Jemma Appleby

Jemma’s work focuses on the relationship between architecture and landscape. She explores this relationship by integrating architectural structures, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses and Ron Arad’s design museum, into her landscapes bringing together links between the natural world and invention. By heightening elements of the architecture, the juxtaposition between what is man made and what is naturally created work together to create a narrative surrounding the extension of one plane into another. Jemma challenges viewers to pay attention to the detail within her work, as things are often not what they seem, allowing viewers to gain new interpretations of her work with each interaction.

We recently caught up with Jemma to discuss the concepts and creative process behind her work.


What role does architecture play in your work?

My work has developed from inputting an architectural element, mostly of physical impossibility, creating punctuating moments firstly of rest, and then of questioning when the landscape takes the place of the architecture, to now fully allowing the landscape to describe the architectural form and space. Initially the architectural elements were a device to cut through the landscape and allow the eye to rest whilst encountering the velvet charcoal surface, now once again the overtly architectural forms are dissolving to leave us with an idea, memory, feeling, shadow, echo, and reflection of architecture.

How do you convey the relationship between landscape and architecture? What interests you about this theme?

All of my work is an investigation into the complex relationship between architecture and landscape. I am in pursuit of the varying ways in which the two interact and how they affect each other, whether in harmony or juxtaposition. My Wright series plays on the human need to seek shelter and protection. On first glance the structures appear to be fully realised buildings but in fact turn out to be the suggestion of a building, an idea of something. The more you look the more you see is missing. It is these areas where the landscape becomes the architecture, which interests me the most.


Could you expand on the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses on your work? Does his philosophy of organic architecture resonate with you?

Frank Lloyd Wright had very strong beliefs regarding the harmonious relationship between architecture and the natural landscape, and coined the phrase ‘organic architecture’, an architectural intention in which buildings and furnishings are integrated into the site such that they become a unified composition. I believe architecture versus landscape shouldn’t need to be a battle. Harmony is incredibly subjective and one person’s ‘environmentally friendly’ building could be another’s eyesore. I use Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian buildings to contrast with the specific landscape not in a negative manner but in an approach, which allows a deeper understanding of both.

Jemma Appleby - Maxwell Stein - 85 x 85cm, Charcoal on Paper

Jemma Appleby – Maxwell Stein – 85 x 85cm, Charcoal on Paper

You stated that you were inspired by Ron Arad’s design museum, what are some other influences on your work?

Specifically architecture – Richard Meire’s Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso in the outskirts of Rome and Yansong Ma’s Hutong Bubble 32 in Beijing have formed my ‘Jubilee’ and ‘Environment’ series of drawings. Each investigating how we understand structural forms when architectural information has been taken away. The architectural forms are described through sectioning and intersecting the landscape thus defining planes and edges. More widely, other influences include geometry, landscape, engineered surfaces and volumes, light, reflection, fashion, pattern, and products.

Your style shifts between your Holon series, where you play on the concept of fluidity and self-organising structures, and your Wright series, where the solid and concrete is made manifest. Can you elaborate on this progression?

The Holon series is a pure inquiry of landscape portraying the Corten Steel of Ron Arad’s design museum, whereas landscape and architecture coexist and their elements become interchangeable in the Wright series. I do not see one as an outright progression of the other, merely divergent questions.

Holon #11 - Charcoal on Paper - 50 x 50 cm - £1 200,00

Holon #11 – Charcoal on Paper – 50 x 50 cm

How did you find the transition between using paper as a medium to draw on and to sculpt? How do you re-contextualize this use of paper?

In the same way that there is a little magic in drawing the forest with charcoal, a part of the forest, I feel similarly about paper. I strive for effortless simplicity within my work and so too in my materials. For me it is very important all the sculptural works, large and small, are made from paper, despite this not being the ideal or most practical medium for the hanging piece.


If you could sum up your work for the Exploration exhibition at Antlers using a quote or sentence what would it be?

“The true purpose of art was not to create beautiful objects, he discovered. It was a method of understanding, a way of penetrating the world and finding one’s place in it.” Paul Auster, Moon Palace

Exploration Preview © Morgane Bigault

Jemma’s work is currently displayed in Antler’s Exploration exhibition alongside Geoff Diego Litherland and Karin Krommes. Exploration runs everyday from 10am – 6pm till June 8th at the Purifier House.

To read more about Jemma and to view her work, please see her page:

Words: Helen Wong