8 - 31 May 2015
8 - 31 May 2015
A cacophony of lines and colours greets you – shapes and lines swirl like scattered haystacks, a roiling, bubbling profusion of imagery billowing from the picture frame. Figures appear, spliced with patterns and objects, at once obscured and yet thrown in relief. Women in black crop tops and chunky boots stand, hand on hip, while elsewhere, goats spin in a remorseless vortex. Birds, flowers and pinstripes vie for attention in a strange, otherworldly panorama that can only be described as hysterical.
Indeed, hysteria is one of mixed media artist Tina Jenkin’s main areas of interest. She explores it as a means to critique and circumvent historically pre-configured methodologies and meta-narratives within contemporary painting. In defacing traditional brush strokes with an array of unarticulated, un-thought out marks and gestures, Jenkins is able to analyse the repetitive force of these gestures and contemplate how they have become common practice in her work. “Gestures fill the surface quickly and indiscriminately without any formal concern,” she explains. “This allows me to paint whatever comes to mind, without judgement, pride or shame.”
What then, really, are the issues of sexuality and gender in painting? In Transplastic, Jenkins’ latest series of her trademark plastic paintings, she plays on a mixture of theme and material: She uses the medium of plastic to create her hugely striking images, while the “trans” refers to the ambiguous figures and marks that make up the work. The images are spontaneous, and, other than knowing what her theme will be Jenkins does not plan extensively in advance before embarking on her vision. “I have no plan when I start to make the work,” she says. “The paintings dictate what they’re going to look like. They have more control than I do.”
In this new body of work, the paintings will feature ambiguous figures set against multiple layers of paint. In working with plastic sheeting instead of canvas, Jenkins subverts traditional notions of painting, imbuing a seemingly innocuous and worthless material with the same attention normally given to more traditional media. She works in a series of quick, almost violent, movements, on which she then imposes figures, or alternatively starts by painting the image on itself. As soon as the paint dries she starts to deconstruct it by tearing strips off, before adding more layers and repeating the process until a multi-layered image exists. This results in images featuring dizzying swirls of pattern and colour suggestive of any number of hinterlands to the scene, to be imposed by the viewer him- or herself. Faces and features are not entirely clear: these are anonymous figures set against an anonymous backdrop. The palette is vivid: these are images that command the viewer’s attention and demand to dominate the space they are in.
“Within my own paintings, mannerisms, gestures and marks are repeated, removed and reinstated in an attempt to affirm, escalate, destabilize and analyse the hysterical tendencies that surface, manifest and embed themselves at the site of each and every painting anew,” says Jenkins. “Research generates language, language generates imagery and imagery defies the laws of language and is rendered hysterical.” There is even a sense of menace in the background, unsettling the viewer as presenting as many questions as answers.
In Transplastic, Jenkins is interested in the progression of painting over the centuries as a patriarchal expression, with a remit of how painters – men and women – explore this and make the language their own. “I draw my inspiration from other painters and a lot of the people I admire at the moment just happen to be female,” she says. “I am trying to locate potential differences in the way painters paint.” These differences are important, she believes, and the aesthetic they produce in turn highlights the differing contexts they work in.
Among various awards she has won, Jenkins has received a bursary from Reading University, where she also teaches, to fund a PhD, which further investigates the role of gender in painting by focusing on the notion of hysteria, a concept that has traditionally been associated with the feminine, a tradition that is both outdated and questionable. Jenkins delves into the most fundamental questions regarding art, starting with questioning who is actually making the work, what it is saying, how it is saying it and who hears its call? “In order to actively engage in a dialogue around hysteria in painting I would have to assume multiple positions and be able to shift back and forth between object and subject, between I and you, between analyst and analysed,” she says. “I would need to reside in and simultaneously suck on painting’s patriarchal core. Deleuze stated that hysteria is a galloping schizophrenia and thereby ultimately a unique property of painting. I would need to become that galloping schizophrenic and willingly adopt a vulnerable position. Painting does that - it seduces you, sings out to you like the siren drawing you onto the rocks, it calls you and then purposefully undoes you, - anything to avoid its own capture.”