Keeping the Wheels On, 1994
oil on velvet; oil on canvas
98.5 x 82cm; 63 x 47.5 cm

In this historic work, Jenny Watson paints over red velvet and canvas. Her choice of materials is as evocative as her subject matter – the rich red velvet was redolent of a long outmoded aristocracy. Each aspect of Watson’s work, whether material, conceptual or imaginative, contains both personal and social meaning.

Watson has stated that ‘the mute function of painting’ interests her; the depiction of the elusive sense of memory, touch and feeling, the dreams, nightmares, desires and fears of the individual which, despite their elusiveness, are connected to the collective unconscious.

Keeping the Wheels On (1994) deals with Watson’s interior, private world and its relationship to the exterior. Memories of place, people and objects are connected to each other, and over time. The depiction of self is denoted by projections on to words and phrases, objects, animals and people. These then become the vehicle for an exploration of the complex psychodramas of life.

Watson incorporates written text on separate smaller works on canvas which are paired with the individual velvet paintings. The use of language has long fascinated Watson, having appeared consistently since 1980. Unlike the work of many other contemporary artists who use words as an explanatory or a narrative device, Watson uses them as fragments of memory, providing us with an insight into her personality and ego.

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