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A Sliced Tooth, Rachel Jones

Two landscape paintings stacked on top of each other. Both depict an abstracted close up of two teeth, represented as white monolithic blocks striped with red and black paint.

Rachel Jones, A Sliced Tooth, 2020, Oil pastel, oil stick on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Purchased with Support of the Contemporary Art Society 2021) © Rachel Jones

At a glance

Artist: Rachel Jones

Date: 2020

Materials: Oil pastel, oil stick on canvas

Acquisition: Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Rapid Response Fund (2021)

Rachel Jones’s diptych A Sliced Tooth consists of layers of oil paint and stick. At first it appears to be an abstract exploration of mark and gesture, however as the title reveals, it is a close-up depiction of a pair of teeth.

Representation of the mouth, and teeth, frequently feature in Jones’s work, symbolising a myriad of social, cultural and emotional references. The thick application of oil pastel and stick is almost visceral with a strong sense of physicality behind the mark-making.

Jones uses these motifs and colours as a way to communicate ideas about the interiority of Black bodies and their lived experience. Her titles often make use of familial colloquialisms, using language as another way to connect to a Black audience.

The mouth, as a site of both pain and pleasure, has many meanings, including language and expression, decorative adornment including grills and gold tooth caps, and more horrific associations around the Atlantic slave trade.

Jones’s work plays between the boundaries of figuration and abstraction, citing the ways in which form and colour can be used to express feelings beyond spoken language.