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Jen Allen

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Describing herself as an artist and performer, Jen Allen is the bright young hope for contemporary figurative and wildlife art and acknowledged as one of the twin genre’s rising stars. Taking one look at her debut bodies of work, and you soon begin to appreciate what all the hype is about, and why , essentially, it’s justified. Illustratively trading almost entirely in monochrome imagery, Allen’s fastidiously crafted and artistically measured black and white portrayals of some of the entertainment world’s greatest icons are indeed impressive beyond doubt and command instant respect. Thus far Allen has manifest sublime two-tone iterations of the revered likes of Bono, Pressley, Hendrix, Bowie and Richards (to name but a few) from the music spectrum, whilst David Niven, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Dirk Bogart and Marilyn Monroe have been afforded the Allen graphic treatment elsewhere.

Allen has worked in the capacity of a full-time professional artist since 2000 and on leaving Bournemouth’s Institute of Art from where she graduated. Allen’s work has quickly drummed up a massive following amongst fans of contemporary figurative in the main, although her later pictorials focussing on various wildlife topics have seen her gain additional praise. A general, multi-layered sense of dynamism and an immediate impact brought about not only by Allen’s intricate detailing but the intensity of her preferred black and white palette has captured the attention and imaginations of a broad demographic and continues to do so with each and every new release and exhibition.

In terms of the way in which Allen approaches her work, then there’s one word and applicative technique which repeats itself time and time again, that being ‘spontaneity’. To Allen’s mind this is without question the most important factor in her preparation and mind-set from the outset of each perceived new study, and sets out to intentionally conclude that piece at a single sitting where possible. According to the critically acclaimed fine artist herself ‘working that way gives her pieces a sense of immediacy’ which subsequently affords the finished compositional article a certain character. There is of course always room and opportunity on completion to add, refine and perfect the final version of pictorial events, Allen is quick to point out.

It’s this performance aspect of her art which fascinates many though, whereby Allen invites an audience to observe her in artistic action as it were. These so-called ‘painting performances’ offer witnesses further insight into the mind and process of the artisan in the heat of the visual moment(s), which are, admittedly a rare occurrence today. But then Allen does convey this extraordinary air of creative bravura if you like in the flesh and when addressing her very art, and it clearly gives her as much pleasure and renewed energy in the pieces as it does her audience on these occasions. However, while the performance element is important to Allen, it’s not the be all and end all, and ultimately it’s her innovative, high-impact brand of artistic interpretation that ensures she’s now at the top of her game and mentioned in the same breath as some of the UK’s foremost artistic movers and shakers.

The consequences of which now see Allen’s signature works grabbing the headlines near and far, with her hugely popular and rapidly collectable black and white portraits exchanging hands for large sums of money either by direct sales or the result of auctions. Many of which have originally stemmed from the receipt of commissions which have flooded in of late and from an eclectic range of end buyers including; TV Channels, BBC and ITV, leading department stores and household name, Marks and Spencers, Barclays Bank, Virgin and the government of the UAE. In addition to these accomplishments Allen has also painted portraits ranging from three royal sittings to the cast of ‘Coronation Street’ as a part of the show’s 50th birthday celebrations recently.