Nearly a year ago I concluded that a catalogue has to tell a story, but I wasn’t sure which of Jenny’s possible stories was the one I should tell.
It could be, for example, ‘An Artist’s life’ – what was Jenny’s life and how is it reflected in her art? You could argue that as her sister that is perhaps the only one I am qualified to tell, except that there are whole sections of her life (and her art) of which I know little or nothing. I have very few works finished before 1990, and I was out of the country for a lot of the time when she was active in the London art scene.
Then there is ‘The Artist’s work and what influenced it?’ which I am perhaps partly qualified to tell as the one point of constant contact we had, even when living in different countries, was to go to exhibitions together, exchange books and catalogues, and talk about what we had seen (me about the history or context, Jenny about the Artist and the techniques.)
Or there is ‘The Artist in context’ – Jenny’s work spanned 60 years of revolution in the way art is understood, made, and experienced. I have no doubt her trajectory, were she starting out today, would be very different. Art in schools and Universities is taught in a completely different way and the numbers studying seem incredible when one thinks back to the 1950s. Art itself has new materials and media, exhibitions are now ‘experiences’, not rows of paintings on a wall. I would love to describe how these 60 years of change are reflected in her art.
As preparation for whatever story it might be I began to list the last works Jenny made, the paper works. I listed them by subject (or theme) and put them in chronological order. Then I described, briefly, what was in each part of the list. This simple process was very compressed and completely focussed on the works. It was impersonal. In a word, minimalist. I was pleased with it and felt Jenny might have been too. It said nothing about Jenny’s life or what influenced her art or with the changes to Art in the 20th and 21st centuries. it. And I saw that being short, and illustrated, it could be useful in putting on an exhibition – and so it proved.