by Sukanya DebSep 23, 2022
To begin our narrative on an inquiring note, are self-taught artists, whether in modern art, music, or performance art, far more driven than artists who have graduated from prestigious art institutions such as Yale? Whether you agree or disagree, this surely applies to the self-taught artist, Catherine Jenna Hendry, also known as CJ Hendry.
Hendry makes art based on the concept of photorealism and builds the show around it. The experience of presentations is something that the viewers are really drawn to. Hendry ensures that her art exhibitions are an immersive experience, not merely a collection of paintings. Her previous shows have been on a kids’ bouncy castle - Rorschach, and Blonde, where guests investigated the paintings while wearing a vivid hair wig. For her recent exhibition, Hendry has renovated a whole London church from the ground up. Epilogue comprises Hendry’s ninth solo exhibition and her first show in London. This show features new monochrome art by Hendry in her distinctive photorealistic approach.
With Hendry painting in black and white for the first time, this achingly melancholy series portrays a shared feeling of introspection and reevaluation. Epilogue brings to life a large-scale immersive experience, such as 10 tonnes of recyclable confetti made up of millions of paper flower cutouts falling from the ceiling of the cavernous hall over the show's 10 days, questioning the ephemeral nature of beauty, time, and mortality. The confetti is allowed to fall, gradually blanketing the floors throughout the show, emphasising a larger feeling of time, transience, and rebirth, and eternally changing the exhibition's landscape.
The 20 one-of-a-kind floral sculptures are shown at the New Testament Church of God, a dilapidated East London church. The visual artist begins her work by methodically organising and photographing each item before reproducing them in coloured pencils on cotton paper. The Epilogue features 30 original drawings of flora chosen from Hendry's huge library of sources from throughout the world. Each drawing needs intense concentration and discipline, with a small-scale piece taking roughly 80 hours to finish. Sketching, on the other hand, is viewed by Hendry as a meditative method that provides a little respite from the outside world.
Hendry is a New York-based artist originally from Brisbane, Australia. In the footsteps of Andy Warhol, Hendry generates instantaneously appealing images that celebrate kitsch aesthetics and its ubiquitous presence in contemporary digital culture. More recently, the artist has incorporated new subject matter to delve into the deep-seated concerns and anxieties of current society.
“It’s natural at this time in the world that this series be concerned with the provocation of time, death, and decay. We treasure flowers for their fleeting beauty. Countless artists have depicted flowers in full bloom, but few have portrayed them as they begin to wither and shed their petals. To me, this is where the beauty lies, and Epilogue is a memorial to them and a reminder that nothing lasts forever,” states the artist.
The new body of work is inspired by images of nature throughout art history, from 17th century Dutch Still Life paintings through Andy Warhol and Marc Quinn's pop art. While the botanic motif has historically represented life and energy, Hendry takes a darker interpretation.
Underneath the elegance and formality of her paintings, Hendry shows flowers that, in the absence of nutrition, would ultimately perish. The artist depicts them precisely at the point when they are ready to dry and wither, capturing the last traces of their transient existence.
The exhibition location and its accompanying idea are critical to Hendry's practice's story. The artist usually creates temporary large-scale works, eschewing the pristine, white-wall exhibition environment. This participatory project, which takes place within a church, also focuses on the religious concept of rebirth. The New Testament Church of God (old Holy Trinity) was erected between 1836 and 1839 of London stock brick with stone trimmings. Before Hendry came across the space, the church had fallen into disuse and disrepair in the 1960s. The studio has refurbished the church and repaired its broken ceiling in preparation for the display. This regeneration process will breathe new life into the church and reinstate its role as a hub for local communal life. The end of Hendry’s Epilogue will thus mark the beginning of a new chapter in the church’s own story. The exhibition runs till May 22, 2022.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))