Join us on Monday 12 March from 6-8pm, for the opening of Jess MacNeil’s latest exhibition Exsanguination, presented in association with Art Month Sydney 2018.
Jess MacNeil ‘s recurring preoccupation is with the distillation and expression of complex inter-relationships, whether human, spatial, or of time or place. Bodies of works during the past decade cryptically titled Unfound, The shape of between, and The rate of forgetting offer insights into the artist’s focus on ephemeral concepts – mining and drawing out the elusive co-existence of presence and absence, of uncertainty and indeterminacy.
Exsanguination, or bloodletting is an extreme loss of blood: a metaphoric emptying out. MacNeil continues her skirmish with the figure, with surface texture and space, with transition and transformation, encounter and mutability, to create an elliptical visual narrative. In the way of a writer’s compilation of literary fragments, accretions of old and new elements, from before and from the moments of making, come together in the new works for Exsanguination.
In oil and water-colour on linen or hand-dyed canvas, and unusually quite small in scale for MacNeil, the seemingly disparate works nonetheless activate different elements of each other. The intimate paintings and sculpture present as related but random out-takes – to coalesce as an eclectic edit of aspects of a larger continuum of ongoing “scenes” of and from an artist’s intense subjective thinking, emotions, observations and experiences and art.
Whether working with photo-media, sculpture or painting, a filmic sensibility is integral to the images, objects and materials of Jess MacNeil’s art. Elements of transparency, fluidity, fluctuating light and scales of time, incidences of crossovers and flashbacks, all characterise aspects of the cinematic in her multi-disciplinary practice.
The potent small sculpture, Sanguine / Ex-sanguine, an ambiguous depiction of a woman, sliced and ‘leaking’ green paint, disappearing and re-appearing, reflected onto her surrounding enclosure by tricks and plays of light is pivotal for the many layers of meaning and making within the Exsanguination works. A sequence of sixteen paintings on transparent acrylic is arrayed reminiscent of slides racked in a carousel or frames in a moving-image edit. Each panel, an independent painting, is licked with daubs or drips of viscous blood-red or green oil paint. Dependent on internal and external spatial phenomena and the angle of the viewer, the artist cleverly exploits contradictions within the small sculpture.
Adroitly conjuring with the ambiguities of abstraction and realism, perception of time and space, motion and stasis to simultaneously conceal and reveal a nascent human figure, redolent of both the intense fragility and immense power and vigour of the life force.
MacNeil’s paintings are vested in a range of diverse human experiences and perspectives and encounter; often devolving from incidents which have taken years or decades for the artist to unfold mixed with the now and instantaneous. Three of the paintings traverse the overlapping distortions and disorientation, psychological as well as temporal, during insomnia. Others are from an amalgam of remembering and forgetting – on both the universal level and also very personal and intimate for the artist:
‘Drought, Smog, Seep’ combines imagery of: “a profound and prolonged drought on the property I grew up on – image in this work is partially taken from a photograph taken when I was around 7 – with snapshots of London smog from the air taken only months ago, mixed and made relational to one another by the bleeding of the paint and ink below as well as the imprinting and intermixing of the daubing …
‘Smoke Ghosts’ is traced from video footage of the piercingly, impossibly dreadful fires at Grenfell Towers – again not meant as a literal depiction of this in any way, the work describes a transmitting and receiving – however imperfectly – of that pain of others, a ghosting and an imprint which cannot be ignored and cannot not change and hurt one’s self (and nor would any feeling human wish to be immune from this), and – at least for the artist – temporally cannot but speak to other ghosts criminally lost and of which there have been so many in 2017, especially close to us in London being so close to – still part of – Europe (an accumulation of ghosts), and for me also echoes with the September 11 towers burning, which I watched from the ground in lower Manhattan and resonates image and content wise – both images of towers burning stay burnt in the retina and cannot be rid from mind…”
– Jess MacNeil (2018)
Australian artist Jess MacNeil is currently London based. Her works are held in public collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and the Australia Council for the Arts as well as numerous Australian and international private collections.