Jenny Reddin is an Australian painter who creates abstract works by drawing on the combined forces of chance, gravity and fluid dynamics.These forces replace the brush in a process that breaks with tradition by privileging a suspension of rules and predetermined plans, relying instead on powers resident in acts of relinquished control.
Paint, for instance, is poured and not manually applied, and colour theory and selection play little more than an opening role, for the process relies principally on activities that occur independently and at a distance from conscious control. As Reddin has observed:
When I pour viscous solutions of solvent and pigment onto a surface, each pigment particle has a different weight, and therefore falls out of the solution at a different rate. The first to fall are the heaviest, and it is these that form the base, upon which the lighter particles will eventually come to rest, leaving tracks and traces like etching marks or the hairline cracks in oil paintings. Once poured, my only means of control is to manipulate the canvas, and thereafter simply let gravity do its work.
It is a captivating process that reminds Reddin of watching her father in his laboratory at work, where he would cook and conjure compounds in the creation of all manner of consumer products for the home. Like her father’s profession, Reddin’s practice engages elemental forces, but where chemistry prescribes both control and replication, Reddin’s discipline steadfastly relinquishes control and trusts in a process that never deigns to produce the same result twice. And yet chemistry and creativity share compatibilities and a common ancestor in the pre-scientific tradition of alchemy in which multiple layers and realities exist simultaneously, as can acts of creation, destruction, discovery and excavation, all concepts that are central to an appreciation of Reddin’s work. As Reddin herself explains:
My process is about creating beautiful surfaces that could exist somewhere in an Old World masterpiece, and then damaging them to reveal layers underneath. I am looking for marks that can’t be made using a paint brush or any other traditional means.
In the absence of a brush, pigmented planes extend in flows, rivulets divide, chasms open up, and ambiguous forms emerge charged with heightened significance. What is produced is an otherworldly encyclopaedia of forms that register in lesser known regions of the psyche, and consequently prompt far-reaching and highly individual responses.
At close range, Reddin’s works resemble intricate organic networks, and yet this inherent intricacy conceals a latent power, for as well as mimicking the tissues, fibres and capillaries of living structures, her works activate a tendency to find meaning in abstract forms, a mental activity that precedes the conscious processing of perception.
In this sense, the viewer’s engagement is in itself an act of subversion that like Reddin’s production process involves a relinquishing of control, for these works, by their very nature, prescribe a primal way of seeing, wholly unimpeded by the censoring glare of consciousness. Each of Reddin’s works act as the projection of a magic lantern conveyed with a degree of subterfuge to subcortical zones where emotions, memories, pleasures and hormones have their source.
Upon the shore of this deep spring, these privileged forms take root, attracting and absorbing a miscellany of thoughts which, although ours most fundamentally, remain mute, submerged and paradoxically unknown. It has been observed that Reddin’s works discharge an inner light. In as much as this is true, it is no doubt, as Marcus Bunyan has observed, a captured light that can illuminate both ‘the cosmos and of the subconscious’.