Jenny Watson, 'Alice in Tokyo' 1984,oil, synthetic polymer paint, ink and horse hair on hessian, 224 x 174 cm, © Courtesy the artist and GalerieTransit, Mechelen, Belgium

Alumni Profile: Artist Jenny Watson

Alumna Jenny Watson is widely recognised as one of Australia’s most prominent and most travelled artists. She has lived, worked and exhibited in many countries and her work is a very individual form of minimalist figuration.

By Alix Bromley

Jenny Watson graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1972. Since graduating, she has represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and at the Indian Triennale in 1986.

Watson has travelled regularly since the mid-1970s, with destinations including England, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Belgium, the USA, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Her artwork has also been extensively exhibited internationally.

Jenny Watson, Self portrait, 'Kings Road, London 1966' 1986, synthetic polymer paint and gouache on paper, 76.2 x 60 cm, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, gift of Loti Smorgon and Victor Smorgon, 1995, © Courtesy the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Jenny Watson, Self portrait, ‘Kings Road, London 1966’ 1986, synthetic polymer paint and gouache on paper, 76.2 x 60 cm, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, gift of Loti Smorgon and Victor Smorgon, 1995, © Courtesy the artist and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

This international experience was the focus of a major survey exhibition titled Jenny Watson: here, there and everywhere at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne, earlier this year.

Here, there and everywhere provided a comprehensive insight into the conceptual exploration of themes that have shaped Watson’s studio practice, including internationalism, cosmopolitanism, locality and national identity.

The exhibition title, inspired by a Beatles song, was the first career survey of Watson’s art since the 1980s. It featured more than 60 works relating to her extensive international career, including previously unseen works made overseas, artworks exclusively exhibited internationally, and a new work based on the artist’s recent international travels (her first major video work).

Jenny Watson, 'Australian artist in a bar in New York in the year 2016' 1986, synthetic polymer paint, colour pigments, gouache and collage on cotton, 161.6 x 256.4 cm
Jenny Watson, ‘Australian artist in a bar in New York in the year 2016’ 1986, synthetic polymer paint, colour pigments, gouache and collage on cotton, 161.6 x 256.4 cm

Exhibition curator and director of the Potter, Dr Chris McAuliffe, says Jenny Watson is a major and influential figure in recent Australian art.

“Her work reflects on key themes in Australian art. Aspiring to international success, Australian artists rail against distance and isolation. Once abroad, they can feel separated from their roots, and sense a conflict between local and international identity. Globalism has positive and negative effects; a cosmopolitan artist roams the world freely but an expatriate can feel isolated and homeless.

McAuliffe sees “Watson’s art frequently turns on the personal and psychological states triggered by travel, ambition, professional practice and personal life. Watson’s work engages with these narratives in a knowing, playful and often critical sense. Her art is both a personal diary and a commentary on the machinations of the art world”.

A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.