Born Jacobina Kemp in Bellahouston, Glasgow she was always known as Jeka. She was apparently largely self-taught, possibly taking private lessons in London, before attending the Academie Julian in Paris from 1903 to 1904. She travelled widely spending time in the Netherlands, Italy and North Africa. She showed some landscape paintings of France at a group show in Glasgow in 1907 and subsequently exhibited with the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists, the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and the Royal Scottish Academy. In 1911 she was praised by a Glasgow critic for not falling foul of what he considered the faults of the day – imitation of greater artists – rather that she ‘thought things out for herself’. From 1912 to 1914 Kemp held a number of solo exhibitions at Macindoe’s Gallery in Glasgow and also exhibited with the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1912, where a number of her works were purchased by the French government.
Throughout World War I, Kemp worked in Paris hospitals as a nurse-masseuse. After the war she remained in France and had solo exhibitions at the Marcel Bernheim Gallery in Paris and at Warneuke’s in Glasgow and also at the Galerie de la Libraire de la Presse in Nantes in 1922.
She gave up painting around 1927 and remained in France until 1939 when at the outbreak of war, she returned to Britain to live with her sisters in Dorset and later Eastbourne.
Collectors began to take notice of her work again in 1977 when the Belgrave Gallery in London and Wellington Fine Art in Glasgow both held retrospectives of her work.