Meet the Artist – Jessica Dunn

Originally from London, Jessica Dunn relocated to the Algarve with her family over 30 years ago and paints full time in her studio, nestled in the hills of Boliqueime.

In the UK, Jessica grew up in a showbiz household, as the daughter of comedy actor Clive Dunn and actress Priscilla Morgan. Their bohemian London home was a hive of activity, where the front door was always open, and the walls were covered in art from top to bottom.

“As a kid, I remember the fascination of seeing a ladder being pulled down from my father’s attic studio and people going up to have their portraits painted, including several members of the Dad’s Army cast. He was a talented artist himself and really encouraged me when I chose to take that path.”

After studying her art foundation course in London, the family made the big move to Portugal. From then on, Jessica became a jobbing artist, taking all kinds of work from sign writing to murals, and portraits, and as she gradually developed her skills, using her basic training from art school, she began to find her own artistic voice.

“Throughout every stage of my development as an artist, the Algarve has had a huge influence on my art.” Jessica’s early work portrayed the daily customs and traditions of the Algarve and its people; Portuguese scenes of fishermen mending their nets, and locals sitting in the street playing cards. Some years later, after starting a family, Jessica’s focus shifted. Her children became her muses and the Algarve coastline became the backdrop to her paintings, along with her swimming pool series, which she became best known for.

In recent years, she has focussed less on the figurative and more on the abstract, but she is still very much influenced by her surroundings. 

“Working mostly in oils, my paintings are a direct emotional response to the world around me, moving back and forth from landscape to abstraction, using the palette of the Algarve –Terracotta, yellow ochre, ultramarine and cerulean blues, soft greens and flashes of gold.” 

For Jessica, it’s about the paint and the expressive marks created, intuitively layering on and scraping off, from dark to light, until a story begins to emerge, evolving gradually into something familiar, an imagined or remembered landscape, a sea, a sky, or just a feeling. 

“I try to capture an impression, working across several canvases at a time, moving from one to the other with fluidity. Each painting leads me and can turn and change at any moment. I add areas of gold leaf to reflect light and further simplify the abstracted shapes of nature, whilst tonal subtleties and layered marks create an impression of distance and depth and a focal point appears organically, drawing the eye in.” She aims for the visual experience to become an emotive one, giving the viewer an illusion of being immersed in nature, of walking into a painting and feeling lifted.

Jessica is also one of the members of the Quinta Art Collective, a group of artists who came together in 2020. Alongside Jessica, the members include Jane Rodenburg (fibre art), Toin Adams, (sculpture) Tracy Carson, (portraiture) and Andrea Bird (Mosaics). The collective was featured in the Channel 4 TV show A New Place in The Sun.

“We’re a group of like-minded women artists, living close to each other in Boliqueime, producing very diverse styles of art which contrast and complement each other; and best of all, we happen to be great friends. We formed our collective during the pandemic and have gone from strength to strength, holding exhibitions several times a year in different venues across the Algarve.”

Meanwhile, the Algarve continues to be her main inspiration. The beautiful landscapes, fabulous light, the sunshine, and a laid-back pace of life all contribute to the Algarve being the perfect place for this local artist to work.

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Did you know…

Jessica has a private gallery in Boliqueime, the Dunn Studio, where she exhibits her original oil paintings, acrylics and limited-edition fine art prints. Visitors are welcome by appointment.

Currently, her work can be seen at Tavira d’Artes Gallery in Tavira, Quadro Picture Framers & Gallery in Almancil, and at the Dunn Studio in Boliqueime by appointment.

Jessica is looking forward to her forthcoming collaboration with The Sanctuary Gallery, Newnham, UK, with a collective exhibition in Nov 2022 and a two-person show in April 2023.


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