Spectrum, 2005

Only the artist can decide a work is finished and what to call it. If the artist hasn’t given a work a title, what should the Art Executor do? In the end, you have to make something up.

Cataloguing Jenny’s constructions of paper and card was a challenge.  The challenge was to identify them, describe them precisely enough to distinguish between them, and then categorise them in a way which demonstrated their artistic purpose.

There were about 40 works already boxed and so definitely regarded by Jenny as finished. All but a few were white card and paper, in white frames, and all but a few 60 x 60 cms. About half were objects or shapes in 3 x 3 grids. We could not see dates or titles, although later when we removed the frames to photograph them we found most had a signature and date incised on the card so it wouldn’t interrupt the purity of the design.

To being with, what should I call them? Jenny used the terms ‘paper relief’ or ‘paper semi-relief’ pretty much interchangeably so it was hard to know whether she meant there to be a difference between the two terms. It took some time, but I finally decided that there was no alternative – I had to make something up so that I myself could understand them. So I devised a quite arbitrary categorisation, dividing them into two main series: ‘cut outs’ and ‘paper reliefs’

  • cut outs are all 9 pots set in a 3 x 3 grid, cut out of white card suspended above a white backing card so that light gives the shapes apparent solidity. The first date from 2002-03 with pots profiled in square recesses. Later Jenny developed a technique using light to create an illusion of a whole pot suspended in air.
  • paper reliefs I decided formed into several series within two broad categories:
    • Platonic Shapes:  the major series was the square circle triangle variations, of which more than 20 were made; 12 remain. All used paper shapes mounted in 3 x 3 grids on white card. Later constructions were even simpler, being squares and lines, all with local colour. These probably are different enough to make a separate category, but there are only 5 left which are finished.
    • Cut circles, spirals and flowers:  cut circles are a sequence of large paper circles, pierced by from 1-9 cuts. I link these by the thought that the simple cut leads to complexity – so the original circle develops into the final flower.

My difficulty with these categories is my conviction Jenny herself wouldn’t agree or approve. When she gave works titles she didn’t make such distinctions, and she rarely did give a work a title. Her view was that any reaction to a work of art was equally valid and should be based on looking at the work not a label.  In her art all natural forms are platonic shapes: flowers and spirals, for example, are circles. And all her works are still lifes – what I have called ‘cut outs’ may appear different because they depict actual pots but look again and they are platonic shapes.  But in the end I decided that, like me, people looking at these constructions for the first time need a little help to appreciate the artist’s intention. If the labels confuse then I have failed but I hope they help.