Manc of the Month – Jude Wainwright

We are pleased to introduce you to our Manc of the Month for November, Jude Wainwright aka The Jude.. Jude is a phenomenal self-portrait and landscape painter, has featured on Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year 2022 and is the proud ruler of Judtopia (more on that below). Beyond her skills for painting and state-leadership, she is also a great person to be around and fills any room she is in with joy.

Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself to Cotton On MCR readers.

Jude Wainwright: ‘Hi there! My name’s Jude Wainwright. I’m an artist living and working in Manchester. I originally came to this fair city from Sheffield (city of steel) 16 years ago to study Fine Art at MMU. I simply fell in love with the place and never looked back.’

‘My studio is based in AWOL studios, Ancoats, where I’ve spent the majority of the last 6 years creating work, forming friendships and rediscovering my practice.’

‘Self-portraiture frames the basis of my work – that and anything concerning ‘The Jude’. I almost exclusively work in oil paints, exploring topics of anxiety and self-deprecation while in turn exercising a form of self-love. I see my paintings as being similar to diary entries, with each one capturing a moment in time. My ideas are formed autonomously and work is created quickly. Meaning is gathered retrospectively and offers a time for reflection and to inspire my next steps.’

COM: How long have you been an artist for? What is it that keeps you painting?

JW: ‘Tough question. How do you know when you can say ‘I am an artist’? As long as I can remember I’ve painted, drawn and created. I remember following my sister to art class when I was 4 because I so desperately wanted to go too! It’s always been there. Since joining AWOL though I would say I have accelerated and become the artist I am today.’

‘What keeps me painting? I simply must! It’s like trying to hold in a sneeze. I do struggle if I don’t paint. There’s a distinct shift in my mental wellbeing (which is quite fragile at the best of times) and painting is my form of therapy, an exploration into what’s ‘going on’ and trying to make sense of it. The deep exhale that comes when I paint is incomparable and I feel blessed to have it.’

COM: You were recently on Portrait Artist of the Year – please tell us about how that was for you!

JW: ‘Possibly one of the most terrifying, draining and anxiety inducing experiences of my life. This is all internal though; it’s a wonderful program run by an amazing team who genuinely love art, artists and want to celebrate portraiture. Which is great for me to reflecting on the experience. I went into filming worrying I was about to be ‘found out’, a real imposter amongst professionals. But instead I now feel rewarded and validated. It’s so hard to describe this mix of terror and exhilaration, is this what bungee jumping is like?’

(My episode airs on Sky Arts Nov 16th ! )

COM: Your piece, ‘Judtopia’ in AWOL Studios is fascinating, could we hear more about that?

JW: ‘Ah sweet Judtopia, the land where dreams are made (my dreams). Judtopia is a brave new world. It’s a state of mind, it’s the promise of freedom and lots of pretty things. I’m also the ruler and anyone is welcome to apply to live there. No stress, no pain, my safe space.’

‘Fulfilling a childhood yearning for Never Land, creating Judtopian artwork, currency, even certificates of citizenship is my way of making that into a reality. I think everyone should have a place where they’re number one.’

COM: Which artists are currently inspiring you and why?

JW: ‘I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by a plethora of insanely talented artists in my day-to-day life. One such being Sara Hindhaugh, fellow AWOL resident and simply fantastic person, is a constant source of inspiration and joy. Her work is brilliant, exploring topics such as “grief, liminal states and preservation of memory” (in her own words). She manages to lay herself bare for all to see in such beautifully painful ways. Sara inspires me to take control of the wheel when I’m in stormy seas!’

‘I’ve also enjoyed rediscovering Paula Rego lately. Since her death I’ve read so much more about her and her incredible life, her fantastical work and its ability to tell stories. She inspires me to make more, say more and be braver with my choices!’

‘A friend gifted me a book The Art Of Louis Shabner (by Stuart Webb) recently and I’m very much enjoying exploring his fantasy glamour paintings of women. They mirror an ideology I strive for in my own work; a glorified, unabashed Jude. Hurrah!’

COM: How would you describe the Manchester arts scene? 

JW: ‘Part of the reason I remained in Manchester after my degree was because of the art scene here and finding my place in it. The people I met 16 years ago still support and inspire me now and I continue to make fresh and stimulating connections. The pocket I have found myself in is so nourishing. There are some amazing people and places in Manchester who are constantly evolving and working to keep our city so full and vibrant, and I’m really grateful for them!’

COM: Where in the city do you like to go to relax? Please tell us about it!

JW: ‘My studio is my number one place. I call it The Judio. It may sound odd that the place I work in is the place I relax the most but coming in every day is like receiving a warm hug. It’s a nurturing, non-judgmental room that’s all mine. I have a rocking chair, pretty ornaments, keep-sakes, the BEST view, old work, new work, even a dolls house! I can speak to people, or not speak to people, and when I say ‘speak’, I mean lean on for advice and hugs. When I first got my studio, it was my way of escape. It is my real life Judtopia.’

COM: What makes a good piece of art?

JW: ‘So many factors come together to make great art – the artist themself, time, place etc. It’s such a hard question! My favourite pieces of art always make me cry and it’s not a happy or sad feeling. It’s just an unscheduled feeling that whispers to your soul. Part of my practice is a way of casting something out, putting it on canvas so it’s not inside anymore, an exorcism of ‘feels’. I believe witnessing good art does the same and allowing the viewer to absorb what was left behind by the artist and truly understand the piece.’

COM: Do you have any upcoming works you’d be happy to share with us?

JW: ‘I’m currently fulfilling a few commissions; a portrait of a man and his cat (it’s so cute) and a garden view. Both quite large and both quite challenging. I love commissions as they push me out of my comfort zone to try new things.’

‘Moving forward though I would like to return to my harlequin series. I had a talented friend create a new and less uncomfortable leotard for me, so I need to crack that out! It’s often hard to say what’s to come next as most of my ideas come when I least expect them, and subsequently I create them soon after for fear of the thought stagnating in my head. Rarely do I think or plan ahead, which has its pros and cons! But I do have a couple of Jude based paintings I want to get out before New Year.’

COM: If you could live in any artwork what would it be and why?

JW: ‘My first and overwhelming thought was Van Goghs Wheat Fields. My gosh, there’s something so escapist about them. Do you ever look out a train window at lush fields and think ‘oh I wish I were running in them now?!’ (I say this because being a city girl I don’t often get to look at lush green grass!). I get the same feeling from Van Gogh, I can feel the warmth of the sun, the quiet, the freedom, the escape!’

If you want to see more of Jude Wainwright’s work, then head to her Instagram @judewainwright_or her website

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