The Fabric of Fantasy


Jenny Watson: “The Fabric of Fantasy”
5 July-2 October 2017

Jenny Watson: “The Fabric of Fantasy” is the most comprehensive exhibition of the work by leading Australian artist Jenny Watson. Curated by Anna Davis, the survey brings together more than 100 paintings, prints and drawings and encompassing over 45 years of Watson’s practice.

Intertwining autobiography and fiction, Watson’s work features a recurring cast of characters, self-portraits and alter egos that appear in everyday settings and dreamlike scenarios. Many are painted on collected fabric during the artist’s travels and include found objects and collaged materials such as horsehair, ribbons, buttons and sequins.

The relationship between text and image is central to the artist’s paintings. In her early works, language fragments are often added into a singular composition, while manyof her more recent paintings include a separate panel of handpainted text alongside a larger image.

Initially working from photographs in a realistic style, Watson became motivated by her encounters with feminism and punk in the 1970’s, turning to her immediate and inner life for inspiration and beginning to develop the spontaneous style of painting she continues to work in today. This was a time when much of the art world was dominated by male artists. The feminist art movement reinforced her ideas that female experiences were a legitimate artistic subject matter. Female characters from literature, movies and television (Alice in Wonderland, Ophelia, Cinderella, Charlie’s Angels, Scarlett O’Hara) have also animated her paintings over the years.


Music has played an important role throughout Watson’s life and work; her early passion for The Beatles in the 1960s, the impact of punk and new wave in the 70s and 80s, and her broad appreciation for song lyrics and a great melody have all influenced her work over the years.

Conceptual art, with its focus on ideas and language, has also played a key role in her work, which she describes as “post-conceptual painting”. Questions around what it means to paint and “what constitutes a painting” fuel her practice, as does an examination of how our everyday thoughts influence how we look at art. By filtering the life and dreams of a self-proclaimed “suburban girl” through a conceptual lens, her work explores the relationship between our inner worlds and outer experiences.

A catalogue of the exhibition is available.

(adapted from the gallery’s press materials)


Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
140 George Street
The Rocks
Sydney, New South Wales 2000 Australia
+61 2 9245 2400

Monday-Tuesday & Thursday-Sunday, 10AM-5PM
Wednesday, 10AM-9PM


Image: (top)
Self portrait as a narcotic
by Jenny Watson
oil, ink, animal glue and collage of paper on linen
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased 1989
Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
© the artist

Image: (centre)
Sleeping Beauty
by Jenny Watson
synthetic polymer paint, pigment, haberdashery attachments on rabbit skin glue primed Belgian linen
Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
© the artist