10 May – 2 June 2018

I turned from the observation of the outside world to the recording of an inner space… I wanted to shatter the techniques I had learnt… to let a random uncontrollableness take hold of the work. [1]
—Jenny Watson

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is pleased to present new works by Jenny Watson in Peripheral Vision, this exhibition features seven large-scale paintings on Belgian linen, together with two smaller pieces on Japanese chintz that she had sourced from a small sewing shop in Tsukuba, Japan. Embedded in feminism and punk, the readily recognised autobiographical and fictional aspects of Watson’s oeuvre are delivered in these works through her distilled conceptual approach, distinct vernacular vocabulary, and the intimate details of her personal life. These earnest yet playful paintings combine colour, text, recurring figures and subtle humour to create a powerful narrative. Though deliberately naïve in style the paintings are acerbic in their emotional detail; a signature, rudimentary expressionistic style that Watson continues to master since her strategic abdication of realism in the 1970s.

Watson is vigorously spontaneous in the way she approaches her subject matter, the artist allows her protagonists to move freely between time periods, as she combines thoughts, situations and memories from her present experience with those from her past and from fictional scenarios. Watson has an incredible ability to zoom in and out on significant moments in her life, using these instants to evoke fleeting emotions and interpersonal dynamics. Her work First Beer (2018) encapsulates this ability, this painting shows the familiar alter ego of a young girl standing in the outline of a neighbour’s suburban home being offered her first sip of beer, we then jump forward in time and witness a teenage version of the alter ego in fishnet stockings attending a pop concert in Screaming teenager at a Beatles concert 1964 (2018).

Music has played an important role throughout Watson’s life and work. Tie a yellow ribbon (2018) references a pop song in the 70s, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by the American pop trio Tony Orlando and Dawn; while Tracy Marander goes to work (2018) is inspired by Tracey Marander’s generosity in supporting then-boyfriend Kurt Cobain, lead singer of grunge band Nirvana, while he needed time to write songs. Tracy Marander goes to work offers an introspective statement questioning the bigger picture of traditional female role and popular representations of womanhood.

Since her inclusion in the Venice Biennale in 1993, Watson has continued to refine the use of a separate text panel alongside her pictorial images, a movement which she considers to be the crucial component in her conceptual painting project. This distinct visual component appears like image caption, aims to address our consciousness and the inner dialogue we subconsciously have when looking at art. As Watson explained, “’the subtext of existence’ is what we have been trained not to think about when we look at art, but it’s part of what makes us human, and art should inform us about what it means to be human.” Deportment (2018) and A mature woman (2018) link us back to Watson’s biography, daily rituals and routines, underlined by poetic, reflective musings, and intimate, perplexing statements.

Peripheral Vision is a clever combination of the revelation of small and individually, seemingly insignificant fragments of her experience, using them as a framework to suggest a fuller, more complete and revelatory account of life, work, thought and feeling. The paintings are bound by a dreamlike logic that slips in and out of the cogitations of the mind. Like memory images caught in passing, we glimpse all manner of experience in Watson’s work: the simple remembering of her time in London circa 1978 in A London taxi and a London terrace (2018), and the tender moment of a magpie landing on her deck in Young magpie (2018). The autobiography that is represented is made all the more personal and idiosyncratic by the particularities of experience that Watson refers to and by her deft visual expressions. Watson’s work continues to be tantalising after more than four decades of artistic practice, perhaps due to the extraordinary quality of her work being at once both highly personal and universal.

—Claire (Visitserngtrakul) Vis-Le

[1] Jenny Watson in Jenny Watson: The Fabric of Fantasy exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, 2017, p.16.

Jenny Watson is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists whose conceptual painting practice spans more than four decades. Most recently Watson presented The Fabric of Fantasy, a major museum survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2017), this exhibition later went on tour to Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2017-18). A survey exhibition titled Chronicles was also held at Griffith University Art Gallery in Brisbane (2016). Jenny Watson has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally since 1973, representing Australia at the 55th Venice Biennale in 1993. Watson has been included in prominent group exhibitions and biennales in Australia and overseas, including Prospect 1993 at the Shirn Kunsthalle, and Popism, curated by Paul Taylor, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1982. Recent solo exhibitions include Other Lives, Galerie Straihammer and Seidenschwann, Vienna (2017); Buffaloes, Gangurinn/The Corridor, Reykjavik, Iceland (2017); Here, There, and Everywhere, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2012); Other Lives, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2012); Striped Paintings and Undercover, Gimpel Fils, London (2011); Jenny Watson, CIAP, Hasselt, Belgium (2010); Material Evidence: Jenny Watson, Works on Fabric 1981–2005, Kunstverein Rosenheim (2009); American Idyll, Galerie Transit, Mechelen, Belgium (2009); and Walking the Dog, Malkasten, Düsseldorf (2008).

Watson’s works are held in major state and regional galleries in Australia, and in a number of overseas collections, including Ghent Museum, Belgium; Ulmer Museum, Germany; Yokohama Museum, Japan; Nagoya City Art Museum, Japan; and Vienna Academy of Arts and Craft, Vienna. Jenny Watson has exhibited with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1982.

Peripheral Vision
will be Jenny Watson’s sixteenth solo exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

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