Jennifer Joseph, Whatever it takes, 2008 acrylic, gesso and mixed media on linen 137 x 274.5cm (diptych)
The art of the spontaneous gesture has a long and honorable history. We think of Kandinsky, for example, the automatic writing of the Surrealists, the French Tachists, and of course American Abstract Expressionism. Serious European interest in spontaneity and chance begins with the late eighteenth century enthusiasm for Chinese and (later) Japanese art, and finds its catalyst in Darwin's Theory of Evolution, which shows that everything, even our own existence, is the outcome of random events. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Zen Buddhism captured the imagination of artists in Europe and America, who embraced its gnomic teachings about the liberation from the self. Yet, looking back, we can see that what characterises a great deal of this art is its delicacy, its ethereal beauty, its tendency towards mysticism. Look at Blue Poles, for example. Now that we are over the shock of its newness, it looks positively pretty.
Jennifer Joseph takes this tradition and injects it with toughness, giving it bite. These paintings are deliciously grungy: Abstract Expressionism after the Sex Pistols, after the time of hope. Having paid their homages they go their own way, making no concessions. Their energy is concentrated, dark and unforgiving. Colour is used sparingly, and, when it does appear, is either murky or pugnacious. Blackness predominates. Although there are areas that are (almost despite themselves) subtle and delicate, the calligraphic marks are invariably bold and assertive, the geometry insistent.
While this exhibition gives us action, spontaneity and chutzpah in spades, there is nothing purely accidental here, nothing off-hand. This is the kind of effortlessness that comes only after years of dedicated effort, a liberation from the self that is possible only when the self is known. Painting at this level of abandonment demands supreme confidence, an absolute surety about what one is doing and why one is doing it.
In the event, we will come upon such meanings in a flash, without having to unpack them laboriously. For ultimately our responsiveness to these paintings and drawings depends only upon our preparedness to engage, to give ourselves up to their musicality, their muscularity, their intensity and their audacity. We need ask nothing more.
An excerpt from the catalogue essay by Peter Timms
Fully illustrated colour catalogue available for $11.00 plus postage and handling.
Please contact the gallery for a full list of works or to arrange a preview of the exhibition prior to the opening.