The exploration of the human figure, self-consciousness and our negotiation with space and figures has always been a central concern in Jenkins work. The artist’s new series explores the human body in relation to space within contemporary life, whilst pushing the limits of the medium. The exhibition’s title refers to a quote from Virgil’s The Aeneid, ‘I sing of arms…’, and features human figures enclosed in chambers mimicking furniture, edged with geometric patterns inspired by marquetry, tribal art and the rhythms of Aboriginal painting. This is clearly depicted in his Discomfort Cabinet Series, which conveys unequal power relations, seen through the contrasting positions the figures occupy within cramped spaces. The claustrophobic poverty of space reflects the increasingly limited space of 21st-century life, whilst illustrating the capacity of the decorative to enclose and imprison.
His works’ boldness and scale imbues them a heightened physicality, whilst the shadows of the physical entities appear caught between two and three dimensions. The prints’ mould-like appearance also suggests that they are liminal structures, situated between sculpture and printmaking. This object-like quality is enhanced by the woodblock’s shape, mimicking the image and taking on the physical appearance of its referent. The woodblock is a site for performative power, registering marks and gestures of a drawing process that excavates raw and hewn forms. The works simultaneously project the artist’s interior life, resulting in an extrusion of feeling and concept into the world.
Highlights of the show include The Arm, which recalls Freud's dictum that man is a prosthetic god, where the arm appears as an imaginary or artificial body part that carries human intention through space; in this case the hand. His woodcut, Infinite Gun, presents the psychedelic extension of a gun into a geometric meandering course terminating in a launch pad or cross. Four explosions anchor the serpent-like form, giving the appearance of a pinball, race course and board-game. Like many of Jenkins’ works there is a level of ambiguity that invites multiple readings, accompanied by an unconscious quality.
All works in the exhibition are available to purchase. Price points start from £1,200 and most of the prints are available in unique variants from an edition of five. The exhibition is accompanied by an e-catalogue, in which Eileen Cooper OBE RA, contemporary painter, printmaker and former Keeper of the Royal Academy, discusses her former student’s practice.
I respond to the strength, vulnerability and sheer intensity of Declan Jenkins new prints. Hand printed, essentially monochrome with some colour, these prints are uncompromising and raw. Print is still fairly new territory for Declan, more power to these prints because of that. For me these prints have the elements of performance and ritual. I clearly remember my first introduction to Declan’s work, which at that time was video,
so witty, emotional and strange.
The words vulnerable and serious occur to me again and again when I try describing his approach to making art…go and see it for yourself and you can decide. – Eileen Cooper OBE RA
Catherine Daunt, the Hamish Parker Curator of Modern and Contemporary Graphic Art at the British Museum will introduce Declan Jenkins at the private view on 5 September 2017.
Jenkins (b.1984) lives and works in London, having completed his postgraduate diploma in Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools in 2015. He produces large-scale woodcut prints that explore the consciousness of being an artist, creating expressive carvings and hand-made prints that hover between writing and diagram. Over the last few years, he has made work across a plethora of media including performance, poetry, video, installation, and sculpture. This dynamic multi-media approach resulted in his collaborative performance with India Mackie at the RA Summer Exhibition this year, in which the two artists met in front of a finger-painting by Mark Wallinger to perform Cantilever Kiss. Harnessed to steel A-frames, the pair suspended their bodies in taut plank positions and touched lips in an airborne kiss; featured on BBC Arts, the Financial Times and the Royal Academy of Arts Magazine. Infinite Gun, was also selected for this year’s RA Summer Exhibition.