Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pinning The Tale On Jenny Watson: The Art Of " ... "

Fig. 1. Jenny Watson - A Painted Page 1: Twiggy by Richard Avedon, 1979

Fig. 2. Jenny Watson - 'I woke up. I was in a hurry ...', 1993/94

Clearly, in undertaking an internal and architectonic analysis of a work … and in delimiting psychological and biographical references, suspicions arise concerning the absolute nature and creative role of the subject. But the subject should not be entirely abandoned. It should be reconsidered, not to restore the theme of an originating subject, but to seize its functions, its intervention in discourse, and its systems of dependencies. We should suspend the typical questions: how does a free subject penetrate the density of things and endow them with meaning; how does it accomplish its design by animating the rules of discourse from within? Rather, we should ask: under what conditions and through what forms can an entity like the subject appear in the order of discourse; what position does it occupy; what functions does it exhibit; and what rules does it follow in each type of discourse? In short, the subject … must be stripped of its creative role and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.

Michel Foucault

Jenny Watson might explain her art in Samuel Butler’s words - that art is interesting only insofar as it reveals the artist. The figures in her paintings, to be sure, are often self-portraits, surrogate or otherwise. The horse is her horse. The shoes are hers. Jenny Watson’s paintings can also be said to reveal an artist in the other, more profound, sense: her art shows the continuous rites of ‘becoming’ that an artist performs for her audience. For Jenny Watson, in particular, the art of painting is constitution of the artistic ego.

Paul Taylor

I really want art to be taken from life. I’m uncomfortable with ‘art for art’s sake’. I find a lot of abstraction completely empty for that reason. If you’re making ‘art for art’s sake’, it’s very hard to make something that is about art and also relative to the real world.

Jenny Watson

'Jenny Watson is, and always has been, an astute pictorial strategist. There are two reasons for this: one to do with sensibility, the other to do with circumstance. Firstly, Watson is an avowedly self-conscious practitioner of her art, who deplores the notion of painting as a spontaneous outpouring of an artist’s inner life. Secondly, the formative years of her practice coincided with the rise of Postmodernism, which gave renewed impetus to what is still generally referred to as “the crisis of authorship”. In an eponymous essay, Roland Barthes, the literary and cultural theorist whose eloquent polemical forays into the topic were crucial in fashioning the new discursive and material identities of those who produce texts, even went so far as to proclaim ‘the death of the author’. However, as Watson’s work amply illustrates, declarations of the author’s demise were greatly exaggerated - though not as greatly as some of her Neoexpressionist peers would have us believe. While her early images confidently exemplify the accent on detachment favoured by several of the more intransigent members of Melbourne’s appropriationist fraternity, her transitional and, later, her “signature” pieces, retain (and tacitly valorise) certain freshly discredited (and ostensibly defunct) humanist tropes: namely, subjectivity, expression, and originality. In fact, it is her tactical, often whimsical, fusion of intimacy and irony that Watson most wants us to notice, and to fathom.'

Lucio Crispino (from Pinning The Tale On Jenny Watson: The Art of " ... ")