In 1982 Jenny Watson stitched together hessian horse feed bags to make a support for a painting. The result was groundbreaking. Watson discovered there was no need to paint the entire surface of the canvas as the fabric itself already contained so much information (a concept she now refers to as the 'cultural quotient' of material). Since then, Watson has continually and tirelessly deconstructed her painting practice. The paintings in The Daisy Show are a culmination of Watson's experiences to date, both in art and in life. They are about surface, tactility, and deconstruction; they are about life as an amateur dressage competitor; they are about womanhood. Yet they are more than self-portraits. Watson’s pictures illustrate alter-egos, but not necessarily her own, “they could be me, or they could be someone else” she says. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a 1960s daisy fabric that Watson discovered on a recent trip to Hong Kong. The cultural and geographical origins of the fabrics Watson uses are as important as the motifs and textures they offer. Old Mare, daisy and a bit of skirt, 2010 incorporates a roughly painted skirt found in a second-hand shop in Queensland. From the local signifier, Watson references the ancient tradition of velvet painting which originated in Kashmir, the homeland of the fabric. The black skirt also whispers “little black number” or “a bit of skirt”. Slogans such as these have always played an important role in Watson’s practice. Just as the fabrics and generic images she exploits are saturated with ‘cultural quotients’, so too the phrases she selects are loaded with meanings that extend beyond the simple conjunction of words in a line. The text panel in Burka, 2010 proclaims, “Drop a dress size”, bringing to mind magazine covers and the perpetual media debates over body image. When paired with a painting of a woman in a burka on Chinese daisy fabric, the cultural associations and re-associations proliferate. There is also an unsettling psychological dimension underlying much of Watson’s work. Can somebody please help me get this knot out of my mouth? for example, is full of angst and mental torment. An unruly knot of horse tail hair collected from fences in Watson’s paddocks exists in place of a girl’s mouth. Here Watson has materialized the feeling of gagging on one’s own words. The childlike simplicity of Watson’s visual logic is endearingly seductive. It makes complete sense in Watson’s imaginative world for a band to be playing inside a pony, or for a horse to be grazing in a girl’s stomach.
Jenny Watson is one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists. She has exhibited extensively since 1973, and in 1993 she represented Australia at the Venice Biennale. In 2003 Watson held a major solo exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan. She has been selected for numerous important group exhibitions and biennales both 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. Watson’s works are held in every major public collection in Australia as well as many public and corporate collections overseas. Jenny Watson has exhibited with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1982. Exhibition opening: Thursday 12 August, 2010, 6 - 8pm Exhibition dates: 12 August – 4 September, 2007 Gallery hours: Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday 11am - 6pm