Philippa Jones’ latest series of ink and watercolour drawings running at Christina Parker Gallery until July 4th is a sci-fi, dystopic examination of the role of accident and chance in the act of creation. Many of the pieces from Fragments for your imagination to hold, at first glance, are reminiscent of the cover art for some vintage science fiction novel, or a release from a prog rock band’s concept album.
Consisting of dark blues and purples, Jones’ ink and watercolour drawings hold a decidedly ominous quality—clusters of crystal shards and dead trees reach up into a dark sky, surrounded by black water. Here, an empty highway stretches into a barren landscape. A tiny lone figure looks out at desolate terrain.
But rather than simple moralizing about humanity’s treatment of the environment, Jones’ approach is more complex. She says: Yes I am concerned about global warming- I do hate how people treat the world. I cannot stand waste and inefficiency. But I try not to think on it too much. It is not something I feel that I can change. I have no deliberate message about it in my work.
Jones embraces randomness and chance—there is not a set plan for the composition of the work, but rather, her mind and her pen are set to wander the page, moving intuitively, without rhyme or reason. Under her brush, an accidental splotch of ink on the paper grows into a pool of still water. The intricate detail of the depicted landscape is formed seemingly of its own volition—like the way the natural world develops, evolves, and changes with time.
Jones says further: Having studied the mineral deposits at the Natural History museum and being very familiar with drawing Newfoundland rocks, I could see the correlation between these small crystalline deposits and the shapes and formations of rocks within our landscape, cliffs, mountains etc. I decided to build a drawing starting with nothing but the tiny rhythmic shapes of minerals and rocks. I had to fully trust my intuition; working with no planned outcome was a gamble. I knew that it could enable the composition to be more dynamic, the work to flow, the relationship between the drawing and my imagination to remain active. As in nature, I deliberately incorporated the random through the variations and controlled chaos of wet on wet ink and watercolour.
Having recently been included in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Jones’ continued exploration of her drawing practice, with its play between intention and chance, strikes a new chord in the contemporary Newfoundland visual arts scene. Fragments for your imagination to hold is well worth checking out.