"Douglas’ large canvases painted flatly in fact function less as paintings and more as sites of private sculptural performances. She inverts the promise and aspiration of perfection – her works are blemish-full rather than blemish-free"
‘Enduring but in Cinders’, Lizzie Lloyd, 2017 published by UH Gallery
Jennifer Douglas’ recent work references the working environments of heavy and light industry and their painterly equivalents within the history of modern and contemporary art. Recent paintings on canvas reference both the 'Buchi' and 'Tagli' (holes and slashes) of Lucio Fontana's paintings and more specifically refer back to the artists aesthetic revelation at the battered, drilled and overpainted walls of an abandoned factory in post industrial Teesside (an area of Northern England subject to successive years of economic decline and dis-investment since the 1980’s).
Using proletarian materials such as industrial floor paint or carbon paper (a redundant material she associates with her Grandmother’s generation of women working en-masse in typing pools for the civil service) Douglas creates serene monochromatic canvases which she then works ‘blind’ - repeatedly puncturing and scratching the surface creating works that are both violent and painterly and refer back to the accidental beauty of toil and labour.
A recent shift in her practice sees Douglas inverting this logic, using gold and silver leaf to cover her surfaces, and then using natural chemical reactions that destabilise and tarnish the works to create paintings that resist the symbolism of wealth and point back, earth-bound, to the elemental properties of materials and their inevitable decline. The series ‘A Tacit Understanding’ explores themes of entropic transformation; signifiers of wealth and poverty; and beauty.
Silver leaf has been a recurring material in Jennifer Douglas’ practice. Earlier works included silver leaf hidden beneath coats of paint and revealed when scratched through. These recent paintings are the first examples of Silver leaf as the dominant material, applied on top of canvasses that are covered with Industrial floor paint.
“…like carbon paper, the silver leaf has a fragile, temporal quality that I am so frequently drawn to. Materials that are intangible and change over time, typically used to adorn and elevate the status of an object. I seek to invert these references by interrogating the possibilities, exploring the formal collisions that it presents when applied to something as contradictory as industrial floor paint.” Jennifer Douglas, 2017
Chance has become an important factor in Douglas work. Previous works have alluded strongly to this by using the intrinsic properties of materials (static produced by video tape to hold it to acrylic sheet in ‘Misery’ 2012, or by working blind with her recent paintings). In the first of these silver leaf works ‘A Tacit Understanding (Silver)’ 2017, an unexpected oxidizing reaction occurred when the work was wrapped for an exhibition. Initially fearing the work ruined, Douglas immediately became excited about the alchemical beauty and entropic sculptural implications of the chemical process, as well as the painterly lustre as the piece very slowly tarnishes from silver through gold towards a bruised purple and silver.