Florence Houston's paintings highlight the Victorians' odd obsession with jelly

Nowadays, it's just a fun treat for kids. But during the reign of Queen Victoria, jelly was serious business, as artist Florence Houston brings to life in her forthcoming exhibition.

Who knew...? Apparently, the Victorians were obsessed with jellies, not just as a culinary delight but also as a symbol of social status.

We're not talking, of course, about the kind of jelly you had as a kid; made by adding mass-produced cubes to boiling water. We're talking about huge wobbling, artisanal jelly sculptures used as centrepieces on a table, from grand home meals to opulent royal banquets.

Now artist Florence Houston is inviting us to explore this unique aspect of Victorian culture and reflect on how food and art intertwine to shape our collective history and identity.

The exhibition

The classically trained artist, whose work typically sparks conversations about the intersection of art, history and gastronomy, is opening a new exhibition this November at London's J/M Gallery titled JUICY!

Combining art, nostalgia and food fetishes, the show promises to engage all the senses. It will feature a collection of monumental, dramatic paintings centred around the enchanting theme of Victorian jellies.

Both comic and monstrous, giant and miniature, these painted jellies were designed with food stylist Lou Kenney to capture the different characteristics of each jelly based on their size, colour and shape. With meticulous attention to detail, these artworks highlight the essence of Victorian elegance and extravagance through vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and nostalgic charm.

Conceptual thinking

"Juicy is a word I've always used to describe something that excites me as a painter," says Florence. "It's a colour, texture, or brush stroke, even the paint itself as it comes out the tube. It's a primal feeling that guides me from subject to subject and unites this work. I enjoy taking something that feels neglected or unimportant and painting it seriously, really cherishing it.

"There's something comedic about it," she adds, "but I also want to show how beautiful those things can be. It's very satisfying to paint a plastic bag or a jelly using the same material and technique used to paint centuries of kings, Popes and other pomp and glory. All my work focuses on beauty: I feel very sensitive to it. Finding and recreating it in my paintings feels like my ultimate goal".

JUICY! is at J/M Gallery, 230 Portobello Road London W11 1LJ from Wednesday 1-Tuesday 7 November. Entrance is free, and opening times are Mon-Sun 10am-6pm. An opening party will be held on Wednesday 1st November from 6pm. The exhibition will continue online until the end of November via www.florencehouston.com.


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