Olympia

19 June – 14 July 2019

Olsen Gallery, 63 Jersey Road, Woollahra, Sydney

Laura Jones set the stage for a re-invigoration and a full scale revival of the still life. The intensity of her full throttle, polyamorous colour and the frontality of her compositions put botanical portraiture in a new context. Here were flannel flowers that gave a hard stare and pansies with bite. The immediacy of her bouquets collapsed all the space around them into an engulfing velvet vacuum. Tables tilted with awkward temerity. Refractions of light on a cut glass vase were scrawled in gutsy smears of electric turquoise. And the drawing and speed of her brushwork was left deliberately raw. Here was an artful combination of technical limits and deliberate experimentation. Jones says her ideal artwork is one that looks “like it always existed”. But what does not exist must be conceived from scratch, and that is part of the point of tackling a rose in a vase. It’s thorny.

Her early work paid playfully scant attention to plane and composition but her first love, the woodcut, continually returned her painter’s eye to the magnetic pull of a flat surface. In her more recent series “Too Much/Not Enough”, she exploded the proportion of the still life to let them occupy the entire frame. Her gradual adoption of larger and larger scale let drama creep up on historically ‘quiet’ subject matter. These paintings, though large, had the same elastic concentration of her smaller oil studies and the freedom of drawings. The liberty of space and the fugitive energy of colour link every step of her progress. For “Olympia”, Jones found a completely new context of natural light in a studio that softened her signature palette to mid-tones, but her lines remain stubbornly ungroomed. The difficulty and process of painting is meant to show:
“I used to have these ideas about what was finished and what was enough paint and now I try not to cover up the previous marks but leave a little bit of everything showing through. If I like the mark, I’ll leave it. I’ve always loved having really flat sections, then thin sections with fat lush sections. There’s got to be a balance of confident and quiet, messy and neat or tight and loose.”
It’s tempting to misunderstand an artist who makes such malleable use of beauty. No stranger to the seduction of colour, this is also a very conscious painter, deftly attuned to connotation. Laura Jones knows that flowers are fraught. Trapped in the thematic ghetto of the interior, blooms were given a consistently passive stance as a subject. In the face of that, her jolting contribution provided a timely interjection to the cliché “pretty as a picture”. Messing with scale, symbolism, colour and erotic force, her work got the wall-flower back onto the dance floor.
In the fresh light of her new studio, Jones found herself “finding the beauty more in plain surfaces like a wall or a window.” Seemingly arbitrary intimate objects have also found their moment: A Mylar balloon here, an abandoned yellow sandal there. Described as ‘diaristic’, these paintings are works that the painter considers experimental in the sense that they don’t grip their subjects quite so tightly. Splotches of grey morning light stain the walls. Something about the placement of things makes you feel invited. You want to be there and that is probably the point.
By Anna Johnson, June 2019
Olympia Theatre 2019, oil on linen, 51 x 41 cm
Bees in The Trap 2019, oil on linen, 152 x 122 cm
Saskia’s Dahlias 2019, oil on linen, 112 x 92 cm
Studio at Night with First Antarctica Paintng 2019, oil on linen, 183 x 152 cm
Those Shoes 2019, oil on linen, 51 x 41 cm
Gum and Orchid on Elliot’s Table 2019, oil on linen, 152 x 183 cm
After Gaga 2019, oil on linen, 82 x 66 cm
Lionel’s Flannels 2019, oil on linen, 132 x 112 cm
Rockstar 2019, oil on linen, 82 x 66 cm
To Be Felt and Thought 2019, oil on linen, 82 x 66 cm
Palette Looking Out to Oxford Street 2019, oil on linen 152 x 183 cm
Macrocarpa On Stage 2019, oil on linen, 152 x 122 cm
16
After Part Ampersand 2019, oil on linen, 183 x 152 cm
Three Cadmium Roses 2019, oil on linen, 51 x 41 cm
Still Life with Camera and Handbag 2019, oil on linen, 183 x 152 cm