Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind. The sense of relief when the winter sun touches your side on a cold day. On the other end of the spectrum: the taste of a lozenge after an especially bilious vomit.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone? I would like a beard of my own.
What are you known for? Beauty without design.
Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. Impossible question!
What inspires you? People who are good with their hands – cooking, handling technology and machinery.
What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. I chose it expecting Ford’s striking set design and cinematography, and it was, but I didn’t expect to come away traumatised.
What was the last gift you gave someone? A painting I made for my friend’s birthday - Peter Rabbit scored into a green monochrome wax tablet.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? I unpack my anger issues and generate new ones.
You’re a new addition to the paint box. What colour would you be and why?
Violet purple. It doesn’t contain a simple or direct idea. I think it should be used more but after the eighties, perhaps it needed a break.
How do you handle criticism? I am interested in it.
Artworks by Jessica Webster:
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Smoke a cigarette, and often have a little weep about magnitudes.
Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. That would detract from its resonance.
What do you worry about, and why? The degrees of hurt caused by my own and others’ carelessness.
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? To have left a material and cerebral legacy that remains useful for further work. I am never late, which is foundational to realising the level of responsibility involved.
Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure? I didn’t attain a good mark in a grade 7 drama eisteddfod after working very hard on a performative interpretation of D.H. Lawrence’s The Snake. I lost my trust in authority from that moment, which led to a strongly independent approach to my art-making.
Would you rather be liked or respected? It depends on my mood.
What is the last book you read? Jonathan Franzen, Purity.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? Seizure: imparting the instant life.
What makes you angry? Carelessness.
What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?
Deciding to write a PhD thesis as a full-length amalgam of both analytic and continental philosophy, with no prior training in either. Sure, one can push the boundaries of what’s possible, but is it always necessary?
What’s your most significant project? It’s a life-long project: after being shot and left paralysed, I am attempting to create a worthwhile practice of living that produces meaning. My painting is deeply intertwined with this aim because it develops my perception of pain and pleasure. These senses reign over our deepest motivations, and bringing them to conscious awareness can offer the self (and viewer) the potential for mastering the complex relationship between desire and repulsion. Mastery can give purpose.
If you were a brand, what would your motto be? Whose tail you waggin’?
Jessica Webster's exhibition, Wisteria, is at the Goodman Gallery in Cape Town until 24th May 2017. goodman-gallery.com