Jenny Smith is an artist living and working in Edinburgh. She works in the medium of drawing, painting, print, artists' books and film. Her work is an is investigation into the relationship between process and concept, within the context of memory, place and time, with particular reference to drawing within a zen context.
Jenny creates processes within her work that reflect her experience of a particular time or place. Described as deceptively simple, Jenny creates work that is subtle, meditative and pared down, yet holds unexpected surprises when observed in close proximity.
Jenny exhibits nationally and internationally. She has won numerous Awards and has work held in public and private collections, including recent acquisitions by The Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. She was a recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Creative Research and Development Award and shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2009. Jenny is listed in the 34th edition of Who’s Who in Art.
Untitled – Sunscript is one of a suite of 4 diptych prints, The Japanese Suite, created in 2001 following a research visit to Japan made possible by an Artist’s Bursary from The Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy.
The work reflects Jenny’s on going research into memory and sense of place as source material for both imagery and process. It draws inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture, temples and Zen gardens. The colours are inspired by the historical and symbolic use of gold and silver in Japanese art.
The Japanese first discovered gold and silver in the Yayoi period 2000 years ago through the importation of gold seals and silver rings. They came to the attention of the community when they were offered during agricultural rituals. Because they had the same golden sparkle as mature rice glittering in the sun, the Yayoi people saw something spiritual in these metal artefacts and they became objects of desire.
In Japanese screen painting the sun is represented by the bright shine of a ground covered in gold leaf and the moon by the cool light of silver leaf. Amongst the 32 Characteristics that represent the transcendental nature of the Buddha, the subtle golden glow emanating from his body is considered one of the most important.
When painting, Jenny was working in layers, scraping back into the paint with pencil, then partially obscuring this by dribbling over a further layer of thick paint. This evokes a half forgotten memory obscured by the passage of time. When she finally applied the colour, certain elements of the initial layers would be obscured and others heightened. There is always an element of chance involved throughout this very structured process. This makes reference to Japanese Calligraphy and also reflects the tension between freedom and control so prevalent in Japanese society. Jenny Smith’s work often juxtaposes different elements, such richly worked areas of paint with empty paper or delicate pencil lines with thickly dribbled paint.
The Japanese Suite was produced as a co-edition with Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop. They are etched lithographs and were made by painting onto acetate and then using a photographic process to transfer this onto lithography and etching plates. This enabled the artist to work in a loose and intuitive way that is very close to the way she painted at this time. They explore the juxtaposition of the universal symbols of the square and circle as well as the mutually dependent relationship between negative and positive space. The etching plates were bitten very deeply which gives a raised surface to the final layer of the print.
Each piece has been hand printed by Alistair Clark and made in a limited edition of 16.
This body of work is featured in a publication Edinburgh Printmakers 40 Years of Original Prints, published by EPW. Jenny was also interviewed on Channel TV in Jersey, talking about this body of work when she had a solo exhibition at the Bernie Gallery in Jersey in 2002. These prints were described by Neil Cameron in a review in the Scotsman, as:
“a beautiful conflation of Japanese minimalism and western abstraction"