projection - blip blip blip


projection - blip blip blip
jenny west
essay by
Sophie Raikes
Hovering above a white ground
Jenny West uses perspective drawing as
a means of construction, conjuring three
dimensional space on the surface of the
paper and suspending forms within it.
Originally, she learnt the rules of perspective
as a practical tool - a means of describing
the sculptural objects she was making in
reality - but found that her virtual creations
took on a life of their own.
Space is West’s primary element: her objects
are delicate, skeletal structures, freed from the
constraints of matter and mass, which hover
above a white ground. During production,
she operates within the entire space of the
studio or gallery, working either directly
on the wall, which is painted and sanded
to a smooth finish; or on thick sheets of
watercolour paper, wetted and stretched or
covered with fine layers of gesso (a mixture
of white paint, chalk and plaster) and fixed
to the wall with white tape. West moves
up and across the room, mapping out
vanishing and measuring points located
temporarily with pins and cotton thread,
which extend well beyond the edges of
the paper or the immediate environment
of the object to the surrounding surfaces. Her
objects start with a scaffold of construction
lines marked out in 6H pencil which support
slightly darker, softer outlines and edges.
Once the basic structure is in place, she
repeats and rotates forms or overlays one
over another, using different vanishing points.
Her work is in a perpetual state of ‘becoming‘,
never finished, with the possibility of being
extended, overlaid or erased. She moves
back and forth between these activities,
laying down new lines and covering others
with washes of white gouache paint tinted
with watercolour so that they blend into the
ground, or rubbing them out with fine emery
paper to clarify the forms as they develop.
West’s drawings float in time as well as
in space. In their complex construction
they recall studies by artists of the Italian
Renaissance, including Paolo Ucello and
Leonardo da Vinci, for whom the geometrical
method of linear perspective was a new
artistic tool, used to analyse and organise the
physical world. West extends this connection,
working with blue, ochre and terracotta paint
colours in chalky tones which might have
been softened and worn over time. These
are derived from frescos by Piero Della
Francesca - one of the first artists to apply the
rules of perspective to painting - whose work
she first encountered with delight as an art
student on summer visits to Italy at a crucial
time in her artistic development. Equally, the
Renaissance represents a pivotal moment in
art history, at the apex of the Medieval and
Modern worlds. At this time, art, science and
magic intermingled freely; and polymath
artists such as Leonardo da Vinci applied
a critical eye not just to drawing, painting
and sculpture but to architecture, mechanics,
natural science and astronomy, finding
correlations between all these elements.
Climbdown (detail)
Pencil, gouache and watercolour paint on paper. 1090 x 2640mm
Such a holistic vision is embedded in West’s
drawing practice, in which art and life are
intimately connected. Her forms often derive
from culinary equipment including funnels,
sieves and moulds, which link to her love of
cooking and are a reflection of her domestic
life. They are also related to a personal
history - people she knows and places she
has visited. However, they appear as regular,
geometrical forms, which can be read
equally as ambitious architectural models
or planetary systems, slipping easily from a
domestic and personal to a monumental and
universal scale.
from her diaries, transcriptions of other
people’s poems and writings on art, images,
magazine articles, exhibition pamphlets
and sketches, creating connections and
juxtapositions between seemingly disparate
parts. These are interspersed with recipes,
both for the preparation of food and for art
materials and processes, and with other lists
of words and phrases, generated by the artist
and associated with a particular subject.
The same elements reappear in different
notebooks, reordered and combined with
new insertions, suggesting an evolving
network of associated ideas.
West considers cookery as akin to drawing:
a mixture of science and alchemy, system and
intuition. It is bound by rules and limitations,
starting with a list of ingredients, which must
be carefully measured and prepared, a
range of implements with which to channel
different elements, and basic instructions as
to how they should be combined. Once
these principles have been mastered, the
ingredients can be endlessly varied and
remixed to create increasingly subtle and
complex blends of flavour. It’s products are
transient pleasures, perfect in the moment,
but disappearing quickly to be made all over
For West, the studio or gallery becomes
a contemplative environment, a place for
mental as well as physical projection. Over
the course of days and weeks, she weaves
intricate networks of lines across the space
allowing forms to develop. They emerge and
recede into the ether like passing thoughts
and dreams.
For West, both cooking and art are physical
manifestations of a state of mind. Alongside
her drawing practice she maintains a series
of notebooks in which she sifts and organises
significant elements and observations from her
everyday life. She gathers together extracts
Savarin mould
Pencil on gesso on paper. 630 x1000mm
Kugelhopf mould (detail)
Pencil on gesso on paper. 630 x 1000mm
Projection - Jenny West
Published to coincide with the exhibition
Projection at
Leeds, September 2012
Designed by Matt West
Printed by Hato Press
Text © Sophie Raikes, 2012
Artworks © Jenny West, 2012
Printed in an edition of 250