Jane Hayes-Greenwood

The Witch’s Garden

26.07 – 20.08 | 2.09 –  September 27.09. 2019

 

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Black Prince, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Sugar Almond, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Beehive Ginger, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Silver Dollar, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Silver Dollar, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Apollo’s Gift I, 2018, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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False Unicorn Root, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Rainbow Moonstone, 2019, Acrylic and oil on linen, 45 x 55 cm

 

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Compared with the large scale installations of paintings, objects and video she has shown previously, the show Jane Hayes-Greenwood presents at GiG seems, at first glance, quite straightforward. It consists of thirteen small oil paintings, all on identically sized linen canvases, each depicting one flower or plant. Some of these plants – like for instance, One O’Clock Gun – look vaguely familiar, something you might come across in a garden or meadow, others are startlingly strange, unnatural composites of tubular forms, bulbs, prickles and flesh.  Although many of the plants are green, the colours are unlike those found in nature, a mixture of viridian, mint, pale blue, grey and black. The plants are rooted in the soil, but this is pale yellow or pink – they are clearly defined, casting strong theatrical shadows, yet equally clearly, they are not from this world. They are all slightly larger than life.

Speaking to Jane, we learn that the work stems from her earlier research into the origin of the ❤️ symbol. It is thought that this shape is based on the seeds of a mythical plant, the Silphium, known in Roman times for its contraceptive and aphrodisiacal properties.  A possible recreation of how Silphium might have looked appears in Apollo’s Gift and Apollo’s Gift II. The other plants of the collection have been similarly selected for their histories, their medicinal properties or even, as with One O’Clock Gun, for their unusual name.  Together they form a ‘Witch’s Garden,’ and it seems very deliberate to be showing them in Bavaria, a state infamous for one of the largest witch trials of the 17th century. 

But just as a fast motion film of a plant germinating and growing does not bring us any closer to the actual seedling, knowing more about Jane’s research practice is not what brings us close to the work.  As Heidegger argues in his short essay ‘The Thing,’ the abolition of distance brings no nearness, indeed often when distance is abolished, the nearness of the thing remains absent. Nearness cannot be encountered directly, instead, it can only be reached by attending to what is near.  And what is near according to Heidegger, are things, standing on their own, self-supporting and independent. Things are not objects, neither re-presented in perception, thought through their making process nor through the function they fulfil. They cannot be defined for us, precisely, by scientific method.  We have to learn the activities of things through what they do, because things are foremost an activity that involves other things and non-things – the world. 

Since I have known Jane, she has always been interested in things, whether these are the mysterious artefacts of her earlier drawings, the fetishistic partial objects of her paintings, or in this case, the plant forms contained by her canvases. Whether or not these plants are supposed to be life-like or make-believe, they gather together tales of the divine and the problems of being human, what relates to the infinite, and what is defined as perishable. Quite literally they stem forth to join earth and sky. They encourage us not to think the earth and sky separately in order to define and understand them but together, at once, intertwined. 

Magdalena Wisniowska 2019

Justina Becker

24.05 – 12.07.2019

 

P1030657Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

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P1030722Justina Becker, untitled, 2019, antique wooden windowframe and egg tempera, dimensions variable

 

Justina14Justina Becker, 2019, installation view
justina26Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030736Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030735Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

Justina12Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

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Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

P1030699Justina Becker, o.T., 2015, egg tempera and canvas strips, 20 x 32  cm
P1030716Justina Becker, o.T., 2015, egg tempera on canvas, 20 x 32 cm

 

P1030719Justina Becker, o. T., 2015, egg tempera on canvas,  20 x 32 cm

 

P1030686Justina Becker, 2019, installation view

 

Justina3Justina Becker, 2019, installation view (nighttime)

 

Justina4Justina Becker, 2019, installation view (nighttime)

 

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All things have a strangeness to them for those who care to look. Their foreignness has been long recognised, whether this takes the form of the thing-in-itself, never to be experienced or trauma, first defined as that which acts like a foreign body in the mind.  We notice the strangeness of objects for instance, when blunt or broken they stop being useful and they turn away from us and each other.  Justina Becker pays close attention to things in their strangeness. The objects she incorporates in her practice are always things that she finds close by, in her house or in the small town where she lives, and almost always, these things have been abandoned, damaged in some regard, without a use. The objects have a history to them – even the viewer not privileged enough to know more of their background, the wheres and hows they came about, can recognise the signs of their previous use. They retain a sense of having lived their own life, among other people and other objects. 

Having studied painting to graduate with Klasse Hildebrand,  Justina Becker approaches her objects with the eye of a painter. Her older work was concerned with the material qualities of painting. How the canvas goes around the stretcher would be important or the way that the canvas keys fit tightly into the corner of a frame.  A shift in her practice occurred when she discovered the readymade and began to use things that previously belonged to someone else. Initially she would wrap these objects in various ways. Some would be covered in a layer of light, sheer fabric almost like a shroud, others would be tightly wound with brightly coloured woollen thread. This protective gesture had a double meaning. On the one hand, it would be a way of hiding the object, obscuring its material qualities and past histories. On the other hand, the object would never be completely covered and through the various gaps and imperfections, its material history would become even more apparent. 

The current exhibition at GiG, shows two of Justina Becker’s older paintings together with a new body of work. One seems at first a straightforwardly abstract, but gives the illusion of a painting shrunk and stretched, the other, consisting of strips of canvas wrapped tightly like a bandage around a stretcher, utilises this double gesture of hiding and revealing. They provide a kind of framework for the new work, a complex installation of hanging window frames, made specifically for the exhibition room at GiG. The wooden windows frames are old, perhaps antique, but with none of the antique’s preciousness. They have been removed and replaced with something better and less rickety, glass taken out, the wood still having some kind of value, even if just as kindling for the fire. These frames have been partially painted by the artist in sympathetic colours and rehanged in the space no longer as windows, or even as architectural elements that would divide the room, but simply for themselves, in their best light. Justina Becker’s work takes on here an almost theatrical element, but the stage she sets is curiously not for us, the viewer, awaiting some kind of grand spectacle. The room in its theatricality is now left for the objects to be in.

Magdalena Wisniowska 2019