‘Joan Jonas: In the Trees II’, Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London, 1 October 2018 – 17 November 2018

Michael Green

Abstract


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The natural world and its landscapes have for a long time occupied the imaginative world of American artist Joan Jonas. In the past decade Jonas has worked almost exclusively with this set of extant props, exploring the lands and seas of her summer home in Nova Scotia, as well as the beguiling, fabled lands of further afield described in fairy-tales and poems. In the Trees II, a new large-scale multi-media installation by Jonas, was presented at Amanda Wilkinson Gallery in late 2018. Occupying the gallery’s single room, Jonas immersed her audience in a wash of green light, diffused from multiple projections of the artist fast at work amongst real and fabricated forest dwellings, painting and drawing against sheets of paper, screens, and the wall of her studio. Outside the videos, an empty garment hung like a spectre or bodiless soothsayer, haunting the space. I contend this hymn to the trees is a darker tale than its soft green luminescence might initially suggest. Rather, In the Trees II intones through its beauty a story of absence and catastrophe. Jonas warns not only of future loss, but also of immediate and irreversible change, the kind we see or hear about now but to which we might turn a blind eye. The artist impels us to see and take heed of these realities.


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