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 of which all but a few were 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, and some did have a title.
Jenny had 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 up something more systematic that I myself could understand them. I decided to stick to Paper Relief to describe all of them, and to use two broad categories: Still Life, and Platonic Shapes.
- still life All are of 9 pots arranged in three rows of three. The earliest were made between 2001 and 2004, and show the pots profiled in square recesses – the depth of the recess varies in each of the four she made. Then she developed a technique in which the outlines of the pots are cut out of white card suspended above a white backing card. As the observer moves the light changes: the shapes acquire apparent solidity and create an illusion of a whole pot suspended in air. A few have local colour, another refinement.
- platonic shapes There were about another 40 works of paper and card, at first glance united only in not being of pots. On examination they could be placed into 3 series, and could also be described as (broadly) geometric:
- the major series were 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
- 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 was my conviction Jenny herself wouldn’t agree or approve. When she gave works titles she didn’t make such distinctions. Her view was that any reaction to a work of art was equally valid and should be based on looking at the work itself, not a label. In her art all natural forms are platonic shapes: flowers and spirals, for example, are circles. And all her art examines or explores natural geometry in some way – some 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.