Locust Jones 'Trouble on the range'

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Locust Jones: Getting to the Truth Locust Jones’s ambitious drawing practice unfolds across single sheets and vast rolls of paper. An expanded archive of global news and personal motifs, the works filter information from the outside world through a deeply personal lens. Images of civil war and terrorism, corporate corruption and social unrest vie with references to the artist’s studio and life in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. Speaking about his practice, Jones describes the cacophony of international headlines that filters through his studio daily. ‘Al Jazeera, the New York Times, radio, newspapers, the internet ... I sit there and listen to what’s going on in the world.’ There is a curious contrast between the quiet of his home life in Katoomba – a self-described ‘bubble’ – and the racket of catastrophic events outside and beyond. Present, yet removed, he speaks of his interest in the juxtaposition of worlds. ‘In Australia, we’re far away’, Jones observes, ‘but with the internet you can be anywhere [at any time]. It’s about making sense of senselessness. If you listen, tune in so much, you need an outlet; I have an outlet, which is drawing. If I have paper and ink I front of me I can get it [all] out of my head’. Jones’s drawings proliferate across dozens of single sheets, as well as vast rolls of paper or linen that unwind across the studio bench. Utilising ink, pencil, watercolour and gouache, they combine imagery and snatches of text that float together uneasily like a jigsaw puzzle. Some works are subsequently suspended like scrolls at four or more meters from the gallery ceiling; others are looped together in ten-meter sections, giving them a dramatic immensity that can tackle vast spaces like Sydney’s Carriageworks, for the exhibition ‘Sydney Contemporary’ (2017). Ambiguity lies at the core of Jones’s practice with its uncanny combination of personal and global motifs. Much writing to date has focused on the political dimension of the artist’s work, with its endless newsfeed and stuttering headlines, some of which give the individual pieces their titles – including that of the current exhibition, ‘Trouble on the Range’. Yet animals and references to nature abound also, some culled from the magazines that Jones regularly reads and collects, including National Geographic and Scientific American. Horses and dogs proliferate, the first an image of untamed nature and the latter, man’s best friend and the artist’s own two kelpies, who inhabit the studio most days. ‘Sometimes’, he observes, ‘I find scientific journals more interesting than the news. It brings you back down to earth a bit.’

Airplanes feature regularly too, representing a potent militaristic symbol but also, perhaps, the desire for escape. A spider’s web motif can be read in many ways from the World Wide Web to vast webs of corruption and conspiracy. Repeated references to the Paradise Papers reinforce this association, inspired by the massive data leak and subsequent German media investigation of where wealthy people including the Queen of England invest their money offshore. The notion of the jigsaw, with its assembled and sometimes awkward parts, is fitting for Jones’s practice. It is also literally expressed in several new works that are torn into sections, illustrated then combined afresh. Accumulated ink from the surface of the artist’s desk stains the sheets and distorts their imagery, adding complexity and ambiguity to the scenes depicted. The accidental nature of this process is something Jones takes pleasure in, allowing the works to evolve through unexpected and spontaneous means. Interestingly, Jones commenced his working life as a farmer in New Zealand’s south island, pursuing formal studies in art after an accident rendered him unable to work for an extended period. The quiet isolation of rural life and the daily presence of death in the animal world – the killing of livestock, ordinary accidents and injuries, culling rabbits on the property – represent a pointed contrast to the hubbub of the radio with the world news pressing in. ‘There is a lot of violence in farming culture’, he reflects today, adding, ‘my focus is not just about war and so forth, but daily life, the land, the ordinary violence of the life cycle.’ In late 2016 Jones commenced a major work about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 pledge to accept one million refugees into Germany, in response to the world refugee crisis. Entitled Wir schaffen das or ‘we can do it’ (Merkel’s words at the time), the work deviated into a wider, sprawling set of themes and imagery through which an Australian narrative began to emerge. He says: ‘I asked myself, why am I doing this work about Germany when I should be turning my gaze to our own back yard?’

Wir schaffen das forms a centrepiece of Jones’s current exhibition and is expanded by over 50 smaller works on paper. A suite of larger linen works also hangs in a frieze-like formation, and viewers are invited to sit and ‘read the news’ accordingly. Through large events and small, international headlines and daily life, Jones assembles a meta-narrative of human fate which, one and all, we are a part of. Rachel Kent 2017 Rachel Kent is the Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2017 Back to the Dark Ages, 4hr Durational Drawing Performance, MCA, Sydney Dark Ages, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, NSW Season of Unreason, Bett Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania 2016 Back to the dark ages, Art Central Hong Kong, Solo Project for Dominik Mersch Gallery 2015 City of Sydney Public Art Commission for the Juanita Neilson Community Centre Screenshots, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, Australia A week in the life of the world, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery, Katoomba New South Wales Brainfog, Karen Woodbury gallery, Melbourne Victoria 2014 Burn Freeze, David Krut Projects, NY, USA Made in Johannesburg, Solander, Wellington, NZ Lifters and Leaners, Bett Gallery, Hobart, Aus Galerie Patrick Ebensperger, Berlin, Germany 2013 24HR News Feed, Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand Steep Descent, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, Australia 2012 Boycott, Isolate, Sabotage, Whitespace, Auckland, New Zealand Some mistakes were perhaps made, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales 2011 Asia one, Hong Kong art fair for Dominik Mersch Gallery. Revolt, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney 2010 Mediated By The Media, White Space, Auckland, New Zealand Lozenge of dawn, 24Hr Art, Darwin, Australia Elevating a disastrous situation into a catastrophe, MOP Projects, Sydney, Australia Untitled, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, Australia 2009 HitchHiking in the Donut of Death, Gallery 9, Sydney, Australia Back-Handed Bullets Whitespace, Auckland, New Zealand Ride it ‘til it dies Rear View, Melbourne

2008 I’ll Burn that bridge when I come to it Until Never, Melbourne, Australia Final Notice Centre of Contemporary Art, Christc hurch, N.Z. The Bird Agents Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia 2007 Clearing Station Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch, New Zealand 2006 Spin Cycle Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, India 2005 Live by the Sword Mahara Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand 2004 Poverty Jet Set Espace SD Gallerie, Beirut, Lebanon Amnesia> Beyrouth Riviera Gallery, Brooklyn, New York

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2017 Mining Pyrite, Newington Armory, NSW Giving Voice, Devonport Regional Art Gallery, Tasmania 2016 As far as the eye can see, Contemporary Printmaking, Blue Mountains Art Gallery, Katoomba, NSW MCA ARTBAR Four hour Durational Performance with Tim Bruniges and Hirofumi Uchino Fremantle print award, Fremantle WA Jacaranda Drawing Award, Grafton Regional Gallery, NSW Paul Guest Drawing Award, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria Wynne Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia Giving Voice, Flinders University Gallery, Adelaide Winter Show, Dominik Mersch Gallery Sydney Australia 2015 Geelong Print Prize. Hutchins works on paper prize Burnie Print Prize, Burnie Regional Gallery, Tasmania Modern art projects at Everglades, Leura, NSW Giving voice, Touring exhibition, Gosford Regional Gallery Galerie Patrick Ebensperger, Vienna, Austria

2014 Redlands Art Award, Sydney, Aus Giving Voice, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, Tas Nature Nurture, Karen Woodbury Gallery A General Map of caves, Hawkesbury Regional Art Gallery, Sydney, Aus 2013 Galerie Patrick Ebensperger, Berlin, Germany Down to the line, Bett Gallery, Hobart, Australia Fremantle Print Award, Fremantle, WA Unsettled, Recent acquisitions of Australian Contemporary art, Art Gallery of South Australia Fauvette Laurio Travelling Art Scholarship, SCA, Sydney University, Aus 2012 The Lookout, National Art School Gallery, Sydney Excavation, The Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney Drawing the line, Whitespace, Auckland, New Zealand Through your eyes, Korean Cultural Foundation, Sydney 2011 5 x 3, Kunstraum Dusseldorf, Germany Sub Text, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia 2010 Free Hand, Museum of Modern Art, Heide, Victoria, Australia Navigators, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, Australia No right turn, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Sydney, Australia 2009 I Walk The Line New Australian Drawing, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia SMAC Awards, GBK, Sydney, Australia The written word in contemporary art, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, Australia The June Fourth Incident, Serial Space, Sydney. Something I said Helen Gory Gallery, Melbourne, Australia 2008 888Exhibition, China Heights Gallery, Sydney 2007 Riviera Real Estate, Riviera Gallery, Brooklyn, New York 2005 Diversity 1, Sulkin Secant Gallery, Santa Monica, California 1999 Sydney Beirut – Beirut Sydney Espace SD Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon

‘War Monger’, 2017, ink on paper, 41 x 33 cm

‘Fascism Made New’, 2017, ink on paper, 56 x 38 cm

‘Lord Balfour’s Folly’, 2017, ink on paper, 38 x 48 cm

‘Flug’, 2017, ink on paper, 28 x 38 cm

‘Bulldozer Exodus Gaza’, 2017, ink on paper, 28 x 38 cm

‘Landscape (golden brown)’, 2017, oil on canvas, 135 x 110 cm

‘Down on the Range’, 2017, ink on paper, 33 x 40 cm

‘Mongolia’, 2017, ink on paper, 28 x 38 cm

‘Operational Pause II’, 2017, ink on paper, 28 x 38 cm

‘web’, 2017, ink on paper, 110 x 77 cm

‘Untitled (what’s going on)’, 2017, ink on paper, 47 x 39 cm

‘Paradise Papers’, 2017, ink on paper, 56 x 39 cm

‘Paradise Queen’, 2017, ink on paper, 39 x 35 cm

‘Fake News’, 2017, ink on paper, 310 x 154 cm

‘Surprising Discovery’, 2017, ink on paper, 28 x 39 cm ‘Wir Schaffen Das’, 2017, ink, pencil and oil on paper, 154 x 1000 cm

‘Bean Bag 1’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, dimensions variable

‘Homage to Fidel Castro’, 2017, ink on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Bean Bag 2’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, dimensions variable

‘Kidnapped by History’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Bean Bag 3’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, dimensions variable

‘Kot Busser to Diamond Smugglers’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Across the Universe’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Little Kim and the Anthropocene’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Operational Pause’, 2017, ink on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘The Listening Post’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm

‘Your Morning Briefing’, 2017, ink, oil on linen, 310 x 150 cm