Concerned with humans’ innate sense of order and our need to impose it on the world, Josie Jenkins is an interesting artist to programme at the end of a year that has served as a vital reminder of how little we really are in control of reality, however much we might try. Her exhibition at Bluecoat will feature large-scale paintings made in her studio at Arena Studios in Liverpool over the last three years, as well as more recent pieces created at home during the pandemic. The show signals the beginning of the gallery’s refreshed commitment to presenting work from artists living and working in the Liverpool city region, adopting a new model of rapid changeovers and more spontaneous exhibiting opportunities in order to support as many local creatives as possible.
Jenkins’ art is full of symbols and motifs which she calls upon to highlight the constructed nature of how we view the world, whilst also referencing the balance between order and disorder that forms the very basis of painterly composition. Within the confines of her canvas, seemingly disparate elements such as scenery borrowed from the 19th-century romantic painter Thomas Cole’s epic landscapes, collide with everyday articles of modern detritus, such as plastic barrier fencing and clusters of discarded furniture. The juxtapositions, and disregard for scale, provides a degree of humour, whilst simultaneously evoking a deeper sense of strange incongruity.
After a deeply incongruous year – a glitch in the matrix, even – that undercut the sense of solid ‘normality’ that many people hold, Jenkins’ seems the perfect artist for Bluecoat to reopen with. Immerse yourself in an assembled world where nothing makes ‘rational’ sense but is instead guided by its own strange yet satisfying logic.