Just as I had finished a catalogue for Jenny’s paper works, (and I can if provoked explain quite what a labour it is to photograph, number, measure and describe, succinctly and accurately, 50 works mostly the same size and mostly white), I had an uneasy feeling that it wasn’t complete.
I knew from a photograph album that after her 2006 exhibition Jenny had numbered 18 works in the Square Circle Triangle series and signed them in pencil ‘PR No (x) JGMcNulty’ – My list had 12 works numbered ‘PR (x)’ made between 2003 and 2007. Listing them in date order demonstrated that most of them had been completed by 2005. From the later numbers it seems she probably made 7 after that. I had 12, so of 25 we had just under half. I had assumed that missing numbers had been sold, but it was odd that most of those missing were from 2003, at the beginning of the sequence. It didn’t feel right.
We have a wooden chest with 6 wide drawers which came originally from an architects’ office, and when we finally settled up here we transferred to it prints, drawings and a few odd items from Jenny’s studio. Last year we went through it to list and photograph prints for this website. Among the miscellaneous items was a cardboard folder labelled, by Jenny, ‘unused cartridge paper’. I had put this in the top drawer of the chest and forgotten it. Now I got it out and looked more closely. There was unused cartridge paper, but it was protecting no fewer than 7 unboxed paper reliefs – 2 in the Squares and Lines series, and 5 Square Circle Triangle Paper Reliefs: Nos 1, 3, 4 , 6 and 10, all dating from 2003. Leaving aside the small point of having to renumber the entire catalogue and amend the database, and another small point that we already had a work signed by Jenny called ‘PR No 3’, this was immensely satisfying in filling the gaps in the series. Now only 2 are missing in the first twelve and it is much more likely that the later ones were sold.
But for me the best thing about finding PR No 1 is it shows how her techniques and concepts developed as she continued to work with just white (or sometimes cream) paper. The first paper works were Still Life studies of 9 pots, made in 2003-04. All are semi-relief, and show pot profiles recessed in a 3 x 3 grid. The depth of the recess varies in each work, enabling different shadow effects: the pots progressively reveal themselves and become more defined. They were called Still Life No 1 etc. Now we have found Paper Relief No 1 we can see a transition from the Still Life semi reliefs to the Platonic Shape paper reliefs, since the first in the Square Circle Triangle series is also semi relief.
To begin with Jenny had called all the Square Circle Triangle series semi reliefs or reliefs as though the distinction didn’t matter. After the mix up on the exhibition price list she decided to call them all Paper Reliefs. With the benefit of an illustrated list in date order I can see that there is a mixture of relief, semi relief and cut out techniques employed as she continued to explore the variations and combinations possible. I would like to think of a better or more accurate term to describe them, but perhaps there isn’t one: when they were made they were breaking new ground so no one term defines them. They are on the cusp between three dimensional sculpture and relief and two dimensional semi-relief – there is no simple way to explain it, they have to be seen.