etching and aquatint
24 x 18"
etching and aquatint
17 x 12"
etching and aquatint
17 1/2 x 12"
Vector I, 2016
etching and aquatint
16 x 9"
Vector III, 2016
etching and aquatint
16 x 9"
My subject matter is the natural form - the overlooked, or less remarked. There is always an initial ‘wow’ factor which draws me in. This can be purely visual - a perfection of form perhaps, or the subject’s resonance with those historical, ethical or environmental matters which interest me - or both. I aim to give these small remnants of nature an iconographic stature, to enable them to stand as a reminder that, despite their vulnerability, they generate and nurture life, and that there is an importance to their placement in the natural world. I often use these natural forms in conjunction with architectural form to reinforce the connection between the human endeavor and the natural world.
- Jenny Freestone
In 1967 I was 17, in my home country of England, and bursting with desire to attend Central St Martin's School of Art and Design in London, as suggested by my art teacher. However the school headmistress had a different idea and deemed art college to be wholly unsuitable for a 'young lady'. My parents bowed to her, and I in turn bowed to my parents. My final school examinations more than qualified me to attend art college or university, but it was not to be, and in 1968 I found myself heading to college to train to be a bi-lingual secretary - so much more suitable.
I met my future husband at the college. We married and moved to Hull on the north-east coast of the country.I worked unhappily as a secretary for a few years, and then two sons were born. In 1982, the year in which our second son turned 2 (and I turned 32), was also the first year a part-time degree in fine arts was offered, and in Hull, no less. I applied, was accepted and began a very happy extended time of parenting during the day and art college by night. I tried my hand at painting, at sculpture and at photography, but it was in printmaking (and drawing) that I found my artistic home. With an extended sabbatical abroad, my degree took a few years, I finally graduated in 1989. My reward (from my favourite aunt) was my own printing press. I started an art gallery and an art consultancy, worked on my own art and began to exhibit widely within the United Kingdom.
In 1996 our family moved to the US. In the UK I had principally worked in etching, a little viscosity etching and drypoint. In the US I studied lithography under Scip Barnhart at the Corcoran School of Art and Design. I also took several courses in photogravure at Pyramid Atlantic Art Centre, under the tuition of Lothar Ostberburg. I now increasingly work in direct gravure, in which a drawn image on mylar is taken through the photogravure process. I take a deep delight in working in these printmaking media - each of which offers its own unique chance at great success and great failure - I often reflect this seems much more the case in printmaking than, say, painting. But I stick with my nitric acid, my carginogenic aquatint box, and place faith in my extractor fan and face mask. For each image, I choose a given media for its particular qualities - whether the soft lithograhic line, the harsher etched line, the rich drypoint line or the delicate pencil line of direct gravure. I usually work in black and white and find myself mesmerised by the manipulation of all those tones of grey in between. Color happens occasionally, notably when I work in viscosity etching.
So my repertoire has widened considerably, yet my choice of subject matter has remained the same over these many years. An artist draws upon many sources in the production of his/her work, which can include history and historical precedent, contemporary practice, and personal belief or personal political persuasion. These resources are processed through a personal lens and the artist then tries to create an original contemplation on some aspect of the world. The lens, or cipher, through which I think about the world around me, is the natural form. I take small and insignificant pieces of nature and attempt to elevate them and to give them an iconographic stature. I do this to underpin their ability – despite their vulnerability - to generate and nurture life forms themselves, and to remind us not to overlook their placement in the natural world.
Given my reliance upon the natural form to convey my personal perception of the world, it is not surprising that environmental degradation is one of my concerns. But the depredations mankind has wreaked upon the world, whether societal or environmental, are in turn confronted by the many breathtakingly achievements of humankind. For me it is the formal qualities of architecture to which I am particularly drawn. Thus in my work, the natural form is frequently placed within an architectural framework, sometimes just barely referenced. It is the dichotomy between our achievements and our failures that underpins my work. I hope my images may trigger in the viewer reflection on the human condition, its attainments and failures, and its impact on the world in which we live.
born 1950 Birmingham, Englandeducation
public collections1990 University of Humberside, Lincoln, England BA
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DCGeorgetown University, Washington DCHunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellow University, Pittsburgh, PALibrary of Congress, Washington DCNational Museum of American History, Washington DCNational Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC
JOURNAL OF THE PRINT WORLD, SPRING 2008
Jenny Freestone: Voyages/Vessels
April 1-27, 2008 at Washington Printmakers Gallery
Review by Pam Hoyle
Voyages/Vessels, a new exhibition of prints by Jenny Freestone at Washington Prinmakers Gallery (April 1-27 2008) expands Freestone's previous explorations of the world of nature - to find and maintain a balance between our ecological system and the man-made environment. As part of the grand inquiry, Voyages/Vessels delves further into nature's reclamation of its own and human creations as a part of the life cycle. Freestone's imagery invites us to enjoy the world from her unique vantage points.
Her California Voyage series (photogravure, etching, solar plate, 2007) offers us a series of four dialogues between maps and aerial views. The cartographic perceptions of the California coast are juxtaposed with her own photographic observations of the stunning grandeur of American terrain from Los Angeles and across the Sierra Nevada from the air at sunset. To bridge the compositional gap between the perceptions of 18th to mid 20th century cartgographers and her own, Freestone uses an etched grid referring to the arbitrary 19th century system of measurements that we know as longitude and latitude. Her areal views bring to mind the lovely textures of the decaying petals in her Calla Lily series from the 1990s.
Freestone's previous exhibitions have stressed her highly nuanced handwork, with a delicious use of drypoint. Most of the works in the current show use line differently, and the artist is caught up in exploring the exresssive value of tone throught aquatint, photogravure and roulette, As illustrated in the California Voyage series, Freestone's horizons have broadened and she has changed the adage, think globally, act locally to think and act globally, with attention to ecological detail. The exhibition incudes a two-color lithograph which references the Chesapeake Bay and climate change and a Bayon, Cambodia series, which acknowledges the mysterious beauty that remains when the vanity of monument building is ravaged by time.
Bayon was Jayavaraman VII's state temple (built between 1181 and 1219) in the exact center of Angkor Thom. Each tower of the Buddhist temple has four portraits of Jayavaraman as the Buddha, one facing each of the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west). Because of the temple's emphasis on the absolutes of geometry and the splendor of the divine, Bayon epitomizes mankin's quest for "perfection".
Bayon Cambodia I (photogravure on teabags, solarplage of sekushi) shows 14 of the Buddha faces juextaposed with the achitectural footprint of the temple. Other images in the series show the Buddha singly or junxtaposed with other images of the 216 portraits at Bayon. Each of Freestone's Bayon images has a quiet charm and dignity befitting its subject.
As our planet is the vessel we inhabit, and Bayon was conceived as a vessel of worship, plant forms are vessels for the population and preservation of the planet. Freestone's reverie extolling the serene magnificence of the Night-Blooming Cereus (Hold, photogravure, aquatint and roulette, 2008) captures an image that occurs on one midsummer's night each year when the Cereus' exquisitely scented flower opens as night falls, then closes forever before the first rays of the morning sun.
Freestone's Vessels series show discarded plant forms (including petals, leaves, bark and twigs) that have been vessels for life during their initial existence and acknowledges their second, recyled life as a conduit for other life forms. Whether they have become bird's nests or beaver dams or vessels traveling down a sleepy stream, nature continues to put them to good use. Nothing is wasted; everything continues its useful life.
New York, March 2008
Journal of the Print World, Winter 2006
Remains: Drawings, Etchings and Lithographs
November 29 through December 24, 2005
at Washington Printmakers Gallery
Review by Pamela Hoyle.
Jenny Freestone's exhibition Remains: Drawing, Etchings and Lithographs was on view November 29 through December 24 2005 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1732 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington DC.
Jenny Freestone's exhibition, Remains, continues thematic progressions presented in her two earlier solo shows at Washington Printmakers Gallery (WPG) in 1999 and 2000, respectively. For the past few years her work has concentrated on various aspect of three major themes: distressed forms found in nature, centuries-old culture-defining architecture, and the union of nature and architecture as symbols of life changes.
As a result of her one-person exhibitions, Freestone's fascination with the beauty and dignity of flowers after their blossoms have abandoned the vigor of their youth are well known to Washingtonians. Most of the flowers currently on the wall at WPG are spunky fighters whose youthful beauty may have beenless sensuous, but no less spectacular.
One of the principal works in the show is Nature, Nurture (lithograph, 2004) the fial work in a trilogy that began with Letting Go (etching 2000) and Now They are Gone (lithograph 2002). Each of the three works uses the floor plan of the artist's home as a backdrop for the interplay of organic forms. As time has progressed in the series, the plan has emerged more and more distinctly. What began as two protagonists (a great, stalwart leaf supporting a lovely languishing flower entwned about the leaf's tall straight stem) playing against an abstract cruciform shape with rooms barely indicated in the heavily textured backgroud, has become a drama of light and shadow in a more three dimensional houseplan with concomitant interiors and exteriors in Nature, Nurture. Three hulls sit on a shelf, while a robust plant has reached full flower in the darkness outside the confines of the domestic plan.
Flowers grow best in fertile soil and fresh air. Freestone likens them to miners canaries, informing humanity that the air is safe to breathe, the soil and ground water unpolluted. Loaded (etching 2005) and Sentinels I and II (etchings 2005) show beautiful natural phenomen that have been cut off from the nurturing elixir infused throught their infrastructure, but the deeply bitten etching Rooted (2004) proves the boisterous life of plant tendrils and roots. Taken as a group,the four etchings represent the strength and fragility of nature.
Interior I (lithograph, 2005) shows the pleasant rhythm of the ribbed vaults and regularly placed columns of a Gothic corridor in contrast with the less regular rhythms of plant forms on its floor. Although at first glance the viewer might be tempted to believe the branch forms to be shadows from trees outside the windows at the corridor's left, the tapering and swelling of their architecture belies that possibility. Instead, further study helps the viewer recognize that they are reiterations of Rooted and both Sentinels, printed time and again on the floor.
Interior II (lithograph, 2005) shows the rhythmic archways of the inside of the Solo del Tinell of the Spanish Royal Palace in Barcelona (14th century). Light shines through the arched windows on the right, revealing a floor strewn with reiterations fo Loaded. The repetitions of the flower swirling across the floor in Interior II show more kinship with satellite pictures of hurricanes than with the lovely, more static etching.
The artist says of her working method and content: "I work from charcoal studies of natural forms: found objects, the human figure; landscape. Reference to architectural form is often made as an element to confine, contain or delineate the subject matter. It is in the process of exploratory drawing that images emerge, with will form the basis for the finished work in print form....I am trying to skirt around explorations of the perfectin of form, the corresnding perfections of function, how we find them in nature, and how we try to reproduce them in our architecture. Ironically, we ultimaely damage or destroy the origial source as we strive to build everythiing "greater and better." Within that idea is the sense that which we try to emulate or destroy holds the seeds of our own destruction or redemption".
To understand what inspired Freestone to create the next series of exotically named prints should know that Siem Reap is a rural province in Cambodia. Between the spring of 1975 and the beginning of 1979, the Khmer Rouge sought to purify and perfect their people. The holocaust that followed made Siem Reap and some other rural Cambodian towns famous as Killing Fields: ad hoc places where between one and two million Cambodians were starved, worked to death or formally executed and dumped. Virually every Cambodian family was touched by the genocide.
From Siem Reap I (lithograph, 2005) shows an image of bark in dramatic light and shadow sitting upon a black plinth with two arcs lightly drawn as single white lines rounding the interior of the rectangle's lower corners. Upon closer observation the bark becomes a drama of forms bowing in protectively upon each other and liftng themselves up off of the plinth.
In From Siem Reap II (lithograph, 2005) Freestone uses the same stone as From Siem Reap I in combination with a second stone of a womb-like form with a rectilinear corner emerging from it. The effect of the two used in tandem on a different type of thinner paper merge the emotional and physical texture of the bark, the atmosphere provided by the womb stone, and the harshness of the rectilinear form to create a heartrendingly beautiful memorial.
More graphic reminders of the legacy of Siem Reap populate the two final commemorations in the exhibition. Siem Reap, Homage I (lithograph, 2003) shows disembodied human skulls peering through desembodied foliage. Its haunting, enescapable imagery was inspired by a conversation between the artist and a Killing Fields survivor, who told her that his mother had resorted to feeding him leaves because no other food was available. Although the youngster survved, 30 years later he still has severe gastro-intestinal problems.
Siem Reap, Homage II (lithograph, 2003) is Freestone's response to viewing the remains of people killed in the Killing Fields. It shows human carapace in the form of skulls of various sizes nestled gently in a wormb-like layering of bark. The womb has been torn apart by the corner of the pure white rectilinear form.
Freestone's innate ability to connect evocatively with what remains of life forms captures the beauty of that remnant and conveys an abiding respect and love for all life. Her work reminds us that the life cycle is fragile, and we must think before wiping out any living thing because what .... we try to emulate or destroy holds the seed of our own destruction or redemption.
To preview a selection of works in the exhibition check the Washington Printmakers Gallery at www.washingtonprintmakers.com and click Jenny Freestone.
New York, 2005
KOAN CRITICS ROUNDTABLE
Art From Washington On The Web
Review by Terry Parmalee, December 2003
Freestone's Siem Reap, Hommage II, a 2003 lithograph, speaks eloquently about the heaps of skuls left from the barbarous wars in Cambodia, en elegy. The feeling in her other works is meditatve and dark, also, not just in the tonalties she uses in her black and white prints. The Crossing Over series of prints, etching and aquatint, refer to the growing up of her children and her melancholy feelings about their leaving home. Like memory images the prints contain hints of faces, with free flowing abstract lines against a dark green background. Carefully observed realistically drawn leaves and other organic forms appear along with dense black geometrc shapes in Ship of Fools and Letting Go, both from 2000. The trauma that mothers feel when their children leave is not a phenomenon that is often explored in art and literature.