In Jenny’s first lesson at Hammersmith College of Art in 1968, her first formal art training, the tutor looked over her shoulder and said “Ah! Morandi!”, to which Jenny replied ‘Who?’ She had never heard of Morandi, nor seen any of his paintings, even in reproduction. There were then just two Morandi Still Life oils in UK public collections, and although one was in Birmingham Art Gallery she had never seen it. On her next visit she asked where it was: it had been lost. A year later the Gallery sent a note to say it had been found in the stacks: by then she had also seen the other Morandi, which was in the Tate.
Jenny admired this work enormously, and as he became better known in the UK she went to see most Morandi exhibitions. The catalogue of the Arts Council exhibition at the Royal Academy at the end of 1970 was still on her shelves when she died. Her own work has definite points of similarity in both method and subject: equally there are differences of intent, palette and technique.
Jenny’s prints and paintings of pots focus on the geometry of the pots separately and together. Each group forms a definite geometric shape – line, square, circle, triangle, and each pot in the group echoes the shape. The pots are generally separated. but even when touching another is defined in space. The spaces between and around the pots draw the attention as much as the pots themselves.
Two works from the 1970s place 4 of the pots from the series above in a line on a shelf.
She painted the same composition in oil when she resumed painting in the 1990s. We haven’t much work left from the period before 2000, but we know that she made at least two more paintings of pots in a line. Three of the pots in the original composition from the 1970s appear in all three works. These are not Morandi imitations; each pot is carefully delineated, the geometry precise. But perhaps Morandi’s example encouraged her to return to an arrangement and explore variations.
My speculation is that, once she had time and a studio space to paint in, her own prints, drawings and notes from her studies at Central School of Art were the main influence on the still life oils of pots she painted after 1990. I was astonished to find a sketch of an arrangement of 9 flower pots in a notebook from her time at Central, the very same arrangement she painted in 2013. She then made 9 more studies from the original, gradually honing in on the mysterious depths between the pots. The spaces between become as or more prominent than the objects around them – just as the spaces, the unknowable and unpaintable, are the focus of her cloudscapes
The pots in her very last oil painting (left below) are once again grouped together, but immediately before that she had painted them confined in a 3 x 3 grid as though they had escaped from one of her paper reliefs (right below). In this painting the pots are very definitely portraits, true to shape and colour. To me these last works confirm her enduring and life long fascination with the elements of matter contained and revealed in everyday, mundane objects.