Like recurring dreams, Jenny Watson employs perpetual symbols to convey personal, feminine perspectives rooted deep in the subconscious. Rejecting literal depictions, her sketchy female archetypes convey the artist’s alter-ego and are complemented by separate, (sometimes) autobiographical texts. Like her figures, these stream-of-consciousness text panels are hard to pin down. Containing elusive sentences, phrases, stories and objects, they encourage free association between image, language and memory.
Watson describes her work as ‘post-conceptual.’ Her pared-back expressionism is characterised by an urgency of execution that allows for direct communication unhindered by formal conventions. Her resulting figures evince a powerful emotional energy. Inhabiting large vistas of decorative fabric that amplify their interiority, they occupy a floating world.
While these spaces are empty, they are by no means neutral. Utilising a signature star organza found in Hong Kong, the physical material of the paintings is crucial to Watson’s practice. Primed with rabbit skin glue, predominantly for aesthetic purposes, she treats the fabrics or ‘cultural quotients’ as source material, their historical resonance providing a starting point for the work.
Often, Watson’s canvases evoke a floaty feminism. Sometimes sweet, she’s never saccharine; witness Small Gold Hobbled’s bound feet or the sentiments of Transgression and Deny Me. Like poetry, her paintings are stripped to spare, symbolic essentials. Their wistful naivety encourages examination of our own interior states.
In 1993, Jenny Watson represented Australia at the Venice Biennale. She has been included in many important exhibitions internationally for over twenty years including Prospect 1993 at the Shirn Kunsthalle and Popism, curated by Paul Taylor, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1982, as well as numerous biennales. In 2003 she had a solo exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan. Her works are held in every major public collection in Australia and many overseas collections. Jenny Watson has exhibited with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1982.