Lest I for­get Jenny Sages

Art Almanac - - Art In Australia - Zoya Pa­tel

In her 11th show at King Street Gallery, Jenny Sages ad­dresses the magic of me­mory, and the ef­fect of for­get­ful­ness on the self. The twenty-time Archibald Prize short­listed artist has a rep­u­ta­tion for ex­plor­ing the deeply per­sonal in her work; Af­ter Jack, a self-por­trait of grief, won the Peo­ple’s Choice Award in 2012. The paint­ing was strik­ing and mov­ing, with Sages pre­sented in a mo­ment of help­less­ness, her loss ev­i­dent in the fine lines and muted colours of the com­po­si­tion.

‘Lest I For­get’ con­tin­ues this theme, hing­ing its ap­proach on the ex­pe­ri­ence of age­ing, and the im­pact on her me­mory. Ac­cord­ing to King Street Gallery ‘Jenny is en­ter­ing a stage in life where she is aware that things are not al­ways as they were – she no longer drives and is a bit more for­get­ful than she once was. The works ref­er­ence her for­get­ful­ness in a nice way, and some­times are hu­mor­ous too!’

‘Lest I for­get’ re­lies on vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and this is fur­ther re­flected in the phys­i­cal­ity of the pieces on view, all of which are very small, ‘del­i­cate and sub­tle’ – con­nect­ing to the na­ture of me­mory it­self as be­ing both in­tri­cately de­tailed and eas­ily dam­aged. The works will be leant on the walls of the gallery, un­framed, en­hanc­ing the sim­plic­ity and raw­ness of the ex­hi­bi­tion. Fur­ther­more, the artist’s pri­mary medium of en­caus­tic on can­vas or boards is a mer­cu­rial and fine process that suits this tone. Her pig­ments have been col­lected from across the globe, and the process of rub­bing them into the wax ground, and then carv­ing, repli­cates the aes­thetic of weav­ing. As such the pieces have a re­cur­ring mo­tif of threads and tan­gles, in tones of or­ange and blue, hint­ing at the way our iden­ti­ties are tan­gled with our mem­o­ries, each re­liant on the other for con­ti­nu­ity of the self.

Known for her por­trai­ture, Sages has other­wise fo­cused on land­scapes. ‘Lest I For­get’ will re­turn the fo­cus to the stu­dio, and is more in­ter­nally driven by the artist’s own re­flec­tions on and ex­pe­ri­ences of me­mory.

Whilst there is still ex­pan­sive­ness to the works, these new works rep­re­sent in­ner sanc­tums, and the fal­li­bil­ity of their pow­ers of rec­ol­lec­tion.

‘Jenny is one of those rare tal­ents who has suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing a vis­ual im­agery so unique, it will main­tain its beauty and el­e­gance for­ever,’ Randi Lin­negar, CoDirec­tor of King Street Gallery said.

The sin­gle self-por­trait that will be in­cluded in the show is dis­tinct from her other self-por­traits, in that the im­age feels re­moved from the viewer. Rather than be­ing a de­tailed ren­der­ing of per­son­age, with the at­ten­tion to the in­tri­ca­cies of skin and ex­pres­sion that we’ve seen in the past, this piece is strong in con­trasts and less de­tail-ori­ented. A sil­hou­ette of her shadow spans up from the foot of the can­vas, a point of so­lid­ity and firm­ness in a danc­ing land­scape of pat­terns, a sin­gle line mark­ing what seems like a sym­bolic path from Sage’s head to into the fu­ture. The im­age is ar­rest­ing in its sim­plic­ity, and the pose of the fig­ure, one hand held up at the brow as if peer­ing down this road of mul­ti­tudes, harks to the no­tion of me­mory as some­thing to be found and cap­tured, some­thing elu­sive and ever-chang­ing.

There is no doubt that Jenny Sages is one of the Aus­tralian greats, an artist whose work is con­stantly evolv­ing, and that al­ready holds an im­por­tant place in the can­non of Aus­tralian art. ‘Lest I For­get’ prom­ises to be an­other com­pelling ex­hi­bi­tion that seeks to draw view­ers into the ten­u­ous­ness of our most im­por­tant con­nec­tions to the world around us – that of past ex­pe­ri­ences, and the mem­o­ries they cre­ate.

Zoya Pa­tel is a writer and edi­tor based in Can­berra.

King Street Gallery on Wil­liam 9 Oc­to­ber to 3 Novem­ber, 2018 Syd­ney

Tan­gled up in blue, 2018, en­caus­tic and pig­ment on board, 36 x 23cm Lest we for­get, 2018, en­caus­tic and pig­ment on board, 36 x 23cm Cour­tesy the artist and King Street Gallery on Wil­liam, Syd­ney

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