AHEAD OF HER TIME : AN EXHIBITION

A homage to Jenny McNulty 1942-2016

In an exhibition that showcases her pioneering paper reliefs, five women celebrate Jenny’s practice with their ceramic pieces.

Alison Gautrey | Valéria Nascimento | Lara Scobie | Tina Vlassopulos | Maria Woodjat

The exhibition features paper reliefs and mobiles from 4 series made between 2003 and 2015, all are hand-cut on white or cream paper, and a few also have local colour.  All celebrate and explore the reality of ‘Still’ Life’: over time they progress from austere 3 x 3 grids of pots seemingly suspended in space to the final exuberance of flowers bursting out from their background.

Exhibition: 1-23 Feb 2024 at jaggedart
28 A Devonshire Street, London W1G 6PS (off Marylebone High Street)

www.jaggedart.com

JaggedArt

Jenny McNulty’s inspiration was always the natural world and the mystery of existence: ‘reworking the same subject/object in different media and making works in series allows me to convey a sense of the perpetual movement and variation of the material world’  Her fascination with ideas of the basic elements of matter, and concern for the fragile environment of earth, led her to develop an art ahead of its time and innovative techniques using paper, wire and mesh.

During her teens she became fascinated by the ideas, then developing, of the origin of the Universe in a ‘big bang’: the earth and all its life forming in a instant from an explosion of particles whose life continues through billions of years.  That these same molecules could be both in domestic pots and the air around them was a source of mystery and fascination, as were the straight lines of the natural world and the waves of the atmosphere, sea and sky

This exhibition shows works from 4 series made between 2003 and 2015, all are hand-cut on white or cream paper, and a few also have local colour.  All celebrate and explore the reality of ‘Still’ Life: over time they progress from austere 3 x 3 grids of pots seemingly suspended in space to the final exuberance of flowers bursting out from their background.  The last of them, ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Big Bang 2’, can be seen as the final link between the origins of earth and the humble domestic pots.

Her wire mesh and paper mobiles began when pots models in wire were made to move when attached to wire hangers.  The later mobiles (for example, ‘constellation’) make more explicit her intention to portray molecular structure and natural geometry. 

About the artist

Having trained as a printmaker under Donald Hamilton Frazer at Hammersmith College and Norman Ackroyd at Central School (now Central St Martins) she later worked in oils, on still lifes of domestic pots or found objects and geometric forms.

From the 1990s she executed the same subjects in paper constructions and wire and mesh mobiles, drawing inspiration for materials from Arte Povera and, in the mobiles, using techniques developed when designing the Childrens’ Notting Hill Carnival.

Still Life

These works were produced in three phases, an example of each is in the exhibition: All lead the eye to see a three-dimensional article where there is only light and space.  They challenge the difference between an actual pot and its surroundings at the molecular level.

  • A series of 5 semi-reliefs,  made between 2003 and 2005, all profiles of pots set in a recess in a 3 x 3 grid. Pots become more defined, stand out further from recess, No 5 with local colour.   2 now available.
  • A series from 2010 & 2011, of which 8 are known and 4 are available for sale. All show domestic pots arranged in a 3 x 3 grid face on to the viewer.  They appear three-dimensional, light falling on the open shapes creates the illusion of depth
  • 2 identical works from 2015, untitled, an arrangement of flower pots similar to a series painted oils the year before.  Sculpted rather than cut out and designed to be lit from the sides of the box to demonstrate how the angle of the light changes the image.

Still Life No 3, 2003

Still Life Grid, 2010

Still Life, 2011

Untitled (flowerpots), 2015

 Untitled (flowerpots), 2015

Untitled (9 pots)

Square Circle Triangle

A series developed over 4 years from 2003-2007 all signed J G McNulty with the title  ‘PR No x). The basic geometric shapes of square, circle and triangle are taken as building blocks of matter with different variations of pattern and design, all set in a 3 x 3 grid of 56 x 56 cm.  Within this strict discipline of structure, they demonstrate richness of forms possible from simple elements.  Each is unique. At the beginning of the series, shapes are complex, each formed from smaller shapes or intricately folded paper. They might be showing variety or evolution possible from an original shape. In the second half of the series, the shapes are basic with cuts showing they might split to multiply themselves.

At least 25 were made, all with different variations of pattern and design, of which 12 are still available. No 1 is more properly a semi-relief (cf Still Life No 3 dating from the same year).   Alphabet is the only known example of a 6 x 6 grid and the only one with a title.  3 mobiles are also available, made of wire and paper or wire alone.

PR No 1, 2003

PR No 12, 2003
PR No 14, 2005
PR 17 D, 2007
Alphabet, 200

Mobile, untitled, undated.

Squares and Lines

This series of which just 8 are known (and 6 are available)  was made at the same time as the Square Circle Triangle Paper Reliefs. Colours which change with the ambient light reveal the shapes. Squares are cut outs in a 3 x 3 grid, Lines are reliefs:  all are 56 x 56 cm.  

Spectrum, 2005
Untitled (Colour Squares), 2006
Colour Grid No 5 (Sunrise), 2008

Spirals and Flowers

The later series shows single forms.  The shapes may be traced back to the Square Circle Triangle series where circles are cut or formed from strips. This further iteration demonstrates connections between simple and complex elements of the circle as it splits, leading to the extravagance of flowers.

Wave

Spiral 3, 2009

Untitled, 2010

The Big Bang, 2011

The Big Bang (2), 2011

‘constellation’ mobile