Sutton Gallery is pleased to present Tunisian Parquetry, an exhibition of new works by Jackson Slattery. Well known for his meticulously detailed watercolours, Slattery’s latest exhibition serves as an eloquent, abstracted exploration of the value of, and expanded possibilities for, representational painting.
Slattery works with found images and staged scenes that are often captured in quick snap shots, with his images offering discrete glimpses of the natural and built environment. He relates distinct moments in time; immobilising movements so that action shots become peculiar and intriguing still lifes. His heavy use of black — a dominant feature in many recent works — is uncommon for the watercolour medium yet is highly arresting. The boldness of this aesthetic choice is indicative of Slattery’s interest in updating the often neglected medium with which he works.
The use of fruit is also prominent in Slattery’s practice — in this exhibition we encounter a lemon just as it has been dropped into a body of water, as well as an orange that sits on a table next to a number of glass objects. These compositional arrangements of commonplace objects link Slattery’s work to the old masters of painting and the still life tradition. At the same time, given that Slattery paints from photographs and other forms of technically reproduced imagery, he is equally engaged in a project quite distinct from classical representation.
Tunisian Parquetry sees Slattery bring together seemingly disparate images that share loose conceptual similarities, as a way to consider the relationship that exists between his own conceptual points of reference, studio processes and painterly aesthetic. Working with source material drawn from the artist’s personal, converging interest in the Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi (who sparked the Arab Spring after he lit himself on fire in a political act of self-immolation) and the deceased basketball player Len Bias (who died two days after being drafted to the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Draft), Slattery presents paintings of both fruit and parquet patterning (taken from the stadium flooring of the Boston Celtics’ home arena) in Sutton’s front gallery. Each reference point conveys a moment taken from recent history, yet their social and political implications are vastly different.
Set against two wall paintings that also depict representations of fruit and parquet flooring, Sutton’s main gallery features a series of paintings that depict hands in mid gesture. These works are the result of Slattery’s questioning of how much information or back-story a painter should provide their viewer in understanding the visual material that the artist chooses to represent. His resolution was to film a number of conversations between himself and other artists, curators and writers concerning the connections between his source imagery. The resulting video captured only the hand movements of these conversations. Slattery then used stills of this footage to produce a series of paintings that offer the viewer a tangential, physical manifestation of the artist’s conceptual starting point. In this way, Slattery’s images become subtle, self-reflexive paintings that question both the relevance and potency of employing representational painting and photo-realism as a methodology.
Jackson Slattery lives and works between Melbourne and Montreal. Recent solo exhibitions include: Wrong Formalism, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2012; Man Made Paradise, TCB artinc., Melbourne, 2010; Dennis Rodman & My Plastic Everything, Sutton Gallery, Project Space, 2009; and Small Ambition, Studio 12, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, 2009. Recent group exhibitions include: Setouchi Triennale, Seto Inland Sea, Japan, 2013; Trust Me, Galerie Desaga, Cologne, 2011; Primavera, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2010; and Cornucopia – recent acquisitions, Geelong Gallery, Victoria, 2010. Slattery has participated in a number of residencies, including the 2012 Lenikus-Artist in ResidenceProgramme, Vienna, and was a studio artist at Gertrude Contemporary between 2008 and 2009. In 2013 Slattery undertook the Australia Council for the Arts and Anne & Gordon Samstag ISCP Residency in New YorkArtist’s profile