Jan Nel­son
Walk­ing in Tall Grass

4th – 20th December 2003
Anna Schwartz Gallery

Each one of Jan Nel­son’s paint­ings from the series Walk­ing in Tall Grass made around pho­to­graph­ic images of youth pro­vides a dif­fer­ent win­dow onto the world of grow­ing up in the glare of our obses­sive pho­to­graph­ic real­i­ty. Her stun­ning tech­ni­cal vir­tu­os­i­ty has cap­tured on can­vas eleven posed por­traits of young­sters doing their thing in their own par­tic­u­lar ado­les­cent way. This work is con­cerned with open­ing up the pos­si­bil­i­ties that exist at the junc­ture between paint­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy: using both medi­ums as part of a broad­er con­cep­tu­al exam­i­na­tion of the res­o­nance between the cult of the indi­vid­ual and anonymi­ty in today’s media sat­u­rat­ed world.

David Cross, extract from THE PHO­TO­GRAPH­IC GLARE: youth as a hyper­re­al expe­ri­ence’, in Jan Nel­son: Walk­ing in Tall Grass, Icono­grafias Met­ro­pol­i­tanas, XXV Bien­al de Sao Pao­lo, Brasil, 2002

Jan Nel­son’s works often mesh design and some kind of emo­tion­al con­tent. The abstract striped paint­ings jux­ta­posed with the por­traits are a direct response to the high design world of adver­tis­ing, archi­tec­ture and fash­ion. They are shiny and pure, exe­cut­ed in sign­writer’s enam­el: hand­made to look man­u­fac­tured. Where the small por­traits are loaded with con­tent, these works are con­tent­less. They rely on a cere­bral response to colour, vibrate with inten­si­ty and are named in response to this sea­son’s colours: Sum­mer Col­lec­tion, Win­ter Col­lec­tion and Autumn Collection.

The hand­made ele­ment is impor­tant in Nel­son’s work, bring­ing a touch of human imper­fec­tion. While aim­ing for pre­ci­sion, she ulti­mate­ly fails to achieve per­fec­tion. The works are obses­sive in their man­u­fac­ture, try­ing to repli­cate that which is already mechan­i­cal­ly repro­ducible and express­ing the anx­i­ety we all feel about loos­ing con­trol. This is per­haps a strug­gle that is doomed to fail but in the process, some­thing unique is cre­at­ed, with a life of its own.