Jen­ny Watson

Toni Ross
Artforum, November 2017
Since her first solo show in Mel­bourne in 1973, Jen­ny Wat­son has been one of Australia’s most notable expres­sion­ist painters, able to invest images and text with psy­chobi­o­graph­i­cal vital­i­ty. Jen­ny Wat­son: The Fab­ric of Fan­ta­sy” was the most com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of the artist’s work to date, includ­ing more than one hun­dred draw­ings, prints, and paint­ings with col­lage and mixed media from the 1970s to the present. Assem­bled with intel­li­gence and empa­thy by cura­tor Anna Davis, the show traced the devel­op­ment of Watson’s dis­tinc­tive idiom through all its phas­es. Watson’s ear­ly works show a young artist hon­ing tech­niques and soak­ing up var­i­ous artis­tic trends. She start­ed with large Pho­to­re­al­ist paint­ings such as Brown Horse with Yellow/​Green Head­band, 1973, which depicts a glossy-coat­ed thor­ough­bred with George Stubbs – like pre­ci­sion. From the mid- to late 70s her work respond­ed to a Mel­bourne artis­tic milieu encom­pass­ing punk and post­punk music, late mod­ern abstrac­tion, cool Con­cep­tu­al­ism, and Pop. A Paint­ed Page 1: Twig­gy by Richard Ave­don (for Paul Tay­lor), 1979, con­dens­es all these ten­den­cies and has become an icon of Aus­tralian post­mod­ernism. Using oils, Wat­son repli­cat­ed a mag­a­zine pho­to­graph of the mod­el Twig­gy on an intru­sive grid, sit­u­at­ing the image in a sludge-like field of lime-green impas­to. Hav­ing engaged in this debunk­ing of painter­ly imme­di­a­cy and the incli­na­tions of Expres­sion­ism, Wat­son began to cre­ate works pos­sessed of both. Start­ing in the ear­ly 1980s, she forged an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal, con­fes­sion­al oeu­vre min­ing mem­o­ries, fan­tasies, and expe­ri­ences of child­hood, young wom­an­hood, and beyond. She explored these themes by com­bin­ing naïve fig­u­ra­tion, impro­vi­sa­tion­al brush­work, inven­tive col­or com­bi­na­tions, and child­ish paint­ed text. In The Key Paint­ing, 1987, crude­ly formed sen­tences press a prone female fig­ure toward the low­er edge of the can­vas. Dressed in the all-black uni­form of punk, she sports a flow­ing mane of bot­tle-red hair. These ele­ments are enlivened by smears of magen­ta pig­ment. The words in the paint­ing may be reflec­tions on the artist’s life in 70s Mel­bourne, with phras­es such as I DID DRINK ALOT. I DID WAKE UP IN STRANGE PLACES. I DID WAKE UP INGUT­TER WITH BLOOD ON MY FACE.… I DID SLEEP ALOT. I DID CRY ALOT. But any woman who has kicked against the traces of parental con­trol in her youth might iden­ti­fy with this tragi­com­ic rec­ol­lec­tion. Girls and women with long orange hair form part of a recur­ring cast of self-por­traits that pop­u­late Watson’s works. Oth­ers include lit­tle girls wear­ing home­made dress­es and Mary Jane shoes (Self Por­trait as a Lit­tle Girl, 1987; Girl in a Blind­fold, 2016) and fic­tion­al avatars such as Alice in Won­der­land, Ophe­lia, and Scar­lett O’Hara. The show also con­tained many expres­sions of Watson’s well-known devo­tion to hors­es, which fig­ure as anoth­er vehi­cle of self-por­trai­ture. Pop­u­lar cul­ture reg­u­lar­ly car­i­ca­tures the girl-horse iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as a psy­cho­log­i­cal prop for female puber­ty. In He’ll Be My Mir­ror, 2013, Wat­son at once affirms and deflates the arche­type of the horse-crazy girl-woman. She depicts her­self as a Nar­cis­sus cap­ti­vat­ed by her mir­ror image reflect­ed in the coat of an equine com­pan­ion. The loose­ly sketched brush­strokes in vibrant blues and greens that sur­round her hint at a bucol­ic fan­ta­sy. Yet this romance has a dark side. The appari­tion on the horse’s flank, encir­cled by sequins that recall lights around a the­ater mir­ror, is far from girl­hood. The age-rav­aged face caked with cos­met­ics recalls a fad­ing Sun­set Boule­vard movie star mourn­ing her lost mag­net­ism. With char­ac­ter­is­tic know­ing­ness, Wat­son injects her ver­sion of expres­sion­ism with an astrin­gent dose of com­ic grit. Pic­tured: Jen­ny Wat­son, The Key Paint­ing, 1987, oil and gouache on cot­ton, 48 3870 78″. Art­fo­rum print­ed Novem­ber 2017 issue.
Filter

Natal­ie King | Cura­tor of the first Tim­or-Leste Pavilion

The first-ever Tim­or-Leste Pavil­ion, which coin­cides with the 25th anniver­sary of the nation’s independence […]

Read More

Maria Madeira | 60TH Inter­na­tion­al Venice Biennale

Kiss and Don’t Tell 20 April – 24 Novem­ber 2024 Tim­or-Leste Pavil­ion at 60th […]

Read More

MIKE PARR | SUN­SET CLAWS | PART 2

An exhi­bi­tion in 3 parts Part 2: Mem­o­ries of Under­de­vel­op­ment 16 — 25 Novem­ber 202 […]

Read More

Intro­duc­ing | Grace Dav­en­port Selth | Direc­tor of Anna Schwartz Gallery

Anna Schwartz is excit­ed to announce the appoint­ment of Grace Dav­en­port Selth as Director […]

Read More

Lim­it­ed places avail­able. Peo­ple enter at their own risk and in com­pli­ance with gallery […]

Read More

Amri­ta Hepi | Plan­e­tary Gestures

Plan­e­tary Ges­tures26 Sep­tem­ber – 3 Novem­ber 2023Walk­er Street Gallery and Art Cen­tre Plan­e­tary Ges­tures is an […]

Read More

Daniel von Sturmer | Elec­tric Light (facts/​figures/​haydens)

Elec­tric Light (facts/​figures/​haydens)23 Sep­tem­ber – 7 Octo­ber 2023Hay­dens Gallery Elec­tric light (facts/​figures) con­tin­ues Daniel von Sturmer’s […]

Read More

LAU­REN BRIN­CAT | BENEATH THE SUR­FACE, BEHIND THE SCENE

Beneath the Sur­face, Behind the Scene­Un­til 22 Octo­ber 2023 Hei­de Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, Melbourne […]

Read More

MIKE PARR | SUN­SET CLAWS | PART 1

An exhi­bi­tion in 3 parts Part 1: Dirty Blan­ket 28 Sep­tem­ber – 8 Novem­ber 2023 Anna […]

Read More

MUT­LUERKEZ | AUDI­TIONS FOR AN UNWRIT­TEN OPERA

Audi­tions for an Unwrit­ten Oper­aUn­til 8 Octo­ber 2023 Staatliche Kun­sthalle Baden-Baden The exper­i­men­tal exhi­bi­tion format […]

Read More

ANGEL­I­CA MESI­TI | TREMBLEMENT

While explor­ing the cor­ri­dors of the Coupole at Galeries Lafayette, I was cap­ti­vat­ed by three […]

Read More

AMRI­TA HEPI | BANKSIARRR

Amri­ta Hepi with Vanes­sa Mor­ris Dis­cussing Straight torque, twin series on Banksia, RRR Amri­ta Hepi joins […]

Read More

Vivi­enne Shark LeWitt | Sine Proprio

Sine Pro­prio7 Sep­tem­ber – 10 Decem­ber 2023Castle­maine Art Muse­um The wind blows where it will […]

Read More

The vast and uncom­pro­mis­ing prac­tice of Mike Parr assumes mul­ti­ple forms through a con­fla­tion of draw­ing, print­mak­ing, sculp­ture and performance.

Half Way House, 2021 dual-chan­nel video, 16:9, 4K, colour, sound 3 hours 18 min­utes Per­former: Mike Parr. Cinematographer […]

Read More

DAVID NOO­NAN | VIVI­ENNE SHARK LEWITT | JEN­NY WAT­SON | Thin Skin

Jen­ny Wat­son White Horse with Tele­scope, 2012 syn­thet­ic poly­mer paint on rab­bit skin glue primed cot­ton 20 […]

Read More

Lau­ren Brin­cat | Per­for­mances on the Quay

Per­for­mances on the Quay 25 — 27 August 2023The Opera House Podi­umPre­sent­ed by MCA & Sydney […]

Read More

Emi­ly Floyd | Cir­cles of dialogue

Cir­cles of dia­logue 15 August — 5 Novem­ber Latrobe Art Insti­tute This exhi­bi­tion takes as its […]

Read More

DAVID NOO­NAN | VIVI­ENNE SHARK LeWITT | JEN­NY WATSON

Thin Skin,Monash Uni­ver­si­ty Muse­um of Art (MUMA) 20 July – 23 Sep­tem­ber, 2023 Thin Skin […]

Read More

ROSE NOLAN | CEN­TRAL STATION

All along­side of each oth­er, 2023 Cen­tral Sta­tion, Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. The pub­lic art­work All alongside […]

Read More

Night­shifts at Bux­ton Contemporary

night­shifts 26 May – 29 Octo­ber 2023 Bux­ton Con­tem­po­rary night­shifts con­sid­ers the impor­tance of […]

Read More

Su san Cohn | Pieces of Peace | Per­for­mances | NGV Mel­bourne Design Week

Su san Cohn​’s exhi­bi­tion Pieces of Peace at Anna Schwartz Gallery from 20 May […]

Read More

Re-Invent­ing Piet. Mon­dri­an and the Con­se­quences | Joseph Kosuth

On view at Kun­st­mu­se­um Wolfs­burg, Ger­many until 16th July 2023, Re-Inven­t­ing Piet. Mon­dri­an and […]

Read More

The Inti­mate Resis­tance: Mike Par­r’s Per­for­mance Work 1971 — 2023 | Museo de Arte Mod­er­no de Bogotá & Fon­dazione Morra

The Inti­mate Resis­tance: Mike Parr’s Per­for­mance Work 19712023 opens on 29 June […]

Read More

Chi­haru Shio­ta | Ham­mer Museum

Chi­haru Shio­ta (b. 1972, Osa­ka) is a Berlin-based artist whose instal­la­tions, sculp­ture, and per­for­mance art […]

Read More