'Training': A Series of Drawings by Jenny Watson
Jenny Watson, another artist taking part in the SPEELHOVEN
03 exhibition, is showing a series of delicate works named 'training'.
As Luc Lambrecht notes in the catalogue, it is a playful evocation of two
activities: training horses and riding trains. The polysemy of the word
'train' has triggered a playfully conceptual and at the same time, associative
approach that materialized in a number of drawings. And thus it seems that
one has to agree with the critic quoted who has summed it up by stating:
"Het is een werk dat zinspeelt op het onderbewuste en op de kunst in het
zog van het surrealisme." (It's a work the meaning of which plays with
the subconscious and with [a form of] art [that is] influenced by surrealism.)
A number of fresh, almost joyously childlike, more or
less sketchy drawing have been created. With a single exception, each one
is like a drawn postcard, a message sent to the audience. A drawn line,
interrupted in places, demarcates it at the top and bottom, the left and
the right. Another, vertical line, divides this space in the middle. The
left part shows a scribbled text (the verbal message visualized), the right
part is showing an image that represents a fragment of a factual or imagined
'reality.' There is a relationship between both the 'verbal' and the 'image'-based
In one such drawing, we see, as if blown up to considerable
size and isolated by this very process, the eye of what must be a horse,
surrounded by sketchily indicated parts of the large head of the horse,
presented in fact by no more than the hair around the eye inside which
the tiny silhouettes of two human beings, a woman and a man, are visible.
They are carefully drawn, not as abstractly as icons, but not in any naturalistic
way either. Not quite like kids would draw them, and still with the innocence
and casual imperfection found in their sketches.
The scribbled note opposite reads:
"I dreamed I
about an old
boyfriend. In the
dream I took my
dog for a walk
+ sat on the
steps of a pub."
The loneliness of the two people depicted in the eye
of the horse, as they stand there, still embracing each other, in what
may be the moment of finally saying good-bye, correlates with the sadness
and loneliness the dream story is breathing. The moment caught or remembered
is not identical, but the emotion is a very similar one. In both stories
told, the image-based one and the word-based one, we are surprised by the
intensity owed to an unpretentious simplicity.
Another work, again postcard-like and again divided into
an image-based part and a word-based part, shows the improvised drawing
of a woman's face. Is it the face of a person of indeterminate age? A young
woman's face, or a girl's face? The large, sad eyes, the nose, the long
hair, the curved, pretty outline of the mouth give us no clue - they leave
it, significantly enough, entirely open to speculation.
The text juxtaposed in spontaneous handwriting reads:
"I had just arrived
in Paris. I had an
appointment with a
gallery. I went to the
small hotel I had
been going to for 20
years. I took a shower
and washed my hair.
On deciding to go
for a walk and
leaving the hotel a
man asked me to
go for a drink."
It is completely left open whether this is an invented
(and perhaps dreamt) or a remembered story. A touch of the autobiographic
seems to enter. If invented, it still lends the story an air of immediacy,
of subjective relevance, a freshness the viewer can relate to and perhaps
recognize his own subjective emotions in. Whether the 'artist' in this
story accepts the offer to accompany the man and "go for a drink" is left
open. But the hair, a symbol of female attractiveness, and the undeciphered
age, occur in both the image and the story that could be another dreamt
story. To be asked by a man to "go for a drink" with him could underline
an existing (and reveal doubts about a persisting) attractiveness. In a
way, the "invitation" expressed at the end of the story could represent
a wish, a desire we all know. Faintly aware how it persists in us.
Still another drawing departs from the post-card-type
structure. I see a large, drawn frame within this frameless work.
Inside it - a drawing, showing a woman riding a horse. Outside it, linked
by an arrowlike line, the words, "painting on fabric of me riding". In
other words, the constellation of text and drawing suggests that this is
draft, a sketchy design, a conceptual presentation of another, painted
work that may never be realized. And this because the concept or sketch
in itself has all the strength and validity of a work of art and may in
fact surpass any imaginable painting of this subject matter. Thanks, I
may add, to its improvised, fleeting quality that seems to reject aspirations
of being 'eternal art'. And perhaps even thanks to an attempt to reject
commodification - although such surpassing of the status of a commodity
of the type which might at least potentially circulate in the art market
is probably impossible to attain, under present circumstances. At the lower,
left-hand edge of the frame surrounding rider and horse we see another,
partly overlapping, frame-like, drawn object, with the word 'Training'
inscribed in it, and a second, arrowlike, pointing line connecting it to
the words "Premade small stretcher". Below the suggested draft of a horse
& rider painting, a circular toy railway line with goods train riding
these tracks, supplemented by what may be a station, two miniature 'trees'
that come with such railroad settings, and a tiny person have been drawn.
In the right-hand lower edge of this work, the words "train set" have been
scribbled. They are connected again with the set in question, by a pointing
Then, again, there is another post-card-like drawing divided
in the middle. Again, a sketchy face of a woman. Again, the scribbled note
juxtaposed. This time, the text says:
"Watching the U.S.
open on TV
made me want
to be in Manhattan in
I was tempted to mispell morning by adding a "u": "mourning".
Is is because I sense I sadness once again? This time, perhaps, the sadness
of a person nowhere at home. Haunted by some inner restlessness. By a search
or deep unhappiness or dissatisfaction in the face of the cornucopia of
objects, events and mirages projected onto some inner screen that endlessly
mirrors a world of advertised longings, the rush of flickering cinematographic
images, the dizzy lives of flat people caught in a plastic screen, framed
by the colorful frame of a ceaselessly mumbling TV set. What, after all,
are the U.S. opens or the tournament at Wimbledon to a car
mechanic, a truck driver, a bar man, a salesgirl in a Manchester supermarket?
Manhattan and Melbourne can be just a wish to fly up up and away. By why?
What is so unbearable, so boring, so difficult to face, in our real lives?
Why this desire, again & again, to be elsewhere? (We know an entire
branch of commerce, an entire "industry" called "tourism" lives on it.)
Again, the drawn 'postcard' shows the head of a horse.
Not just a large, isolated eye and the patches of horse hair surrounding
it. No, it's the nostrils! The raised ears that harken to the sounds of
the world, of the wind... And, yes, the watchful eye on the side of the
head turned toward us - how it regards the observers! The mane, the
long neck, gives way to the breast and back. How sharply observed it is,
the aware, watchful look of the horse that observes the world! How nonchalantly
and yet, precisely the artist caught it - with a few lines of her pen!
The small window which the drawing in the right-hand
part of this post-card-like work opens onto the world of a horse, is confronted
to a scribbled note again. And perhaps it is at this note that, confounded
by it, marvelling, marvelling for a quiet moment, the horse is gazing.
The note speaks. Speak to her who wrote it? To us? To the horse? Make up
your mind, decide it for yourself. The note, at any rate, reads:
"I was listening to
talk back radio about
dreams. A woman
rang in and was
describing a dream
about standing on
top of waterfall
looking down. She
clearly the feeling
of the cold spray
coming up from under
O, I thought, reading it: Perhaps she dreamt it. Dreamt
of a woman ringing in to "talk back radio" in order to narrate her dream.
The feeling of cold spray coming up from under her toes. The bodily sensation
of it. More than tickling. Does it make you feel so very light? As if flying?
As if riding on a horse, flying flying above its back as it hurries on
with a speed never experienced before?
I know I saw the horse just looking on, skeptically,
distanced, fully awake, on its guard. Perhaps it knew what she was talking
about. And took "none of it", as they say, for more than a phantasy.
A phantasy, is that "a dream"?
Perhaps we can look at Jenny Watson's Belgian project,
"Training", as a dream diary. Diary of dreams, sketchily, dreamily evoked
by a playfully proposed, polysemic word. So lightly (but also lightheartedly?)
drawn, these images. And scribbled - these notes. And yet, such a moving
series of strong, equilibriated, and yet tension-filled drawings. They
move the heart. Touch the breathing dreaming animated body. Stir - the
Tentoonstelling / exposition
" DRIFTING / DÉRIVE "
31.08. - 28.09.2003
Karel Breugelmans / Johan Creten / Jorus Ghekiere
/ Allart Lakke / Michael Sailstorfer / Johan Slabbynck / Christophe Terlinden
/ Herman Van Ingelgem / Pieter Vermeersch / Jenny Watson
v.z.v. Speelhoven. Haferbeekstraat 90
B-3200 Aarschot, Tel.-Fax 016 / 56 80 03