An artist abroad

As we celebrate Australian Impressionists in France now showing at NGV Australia, we are exploring the fascinating stories behind Australian artists who have ventured overseas, and how this has influenced their work. Here, Jenny Watson speaks of her time in Tokyo.

At the beginning of 2011 I had the Visual Arts Board studio in Takadanobaba, an historic area of Tokyo dating from the Edo period. It was a three-room apartment and a narrow balcony. I kept one as a studio and primed my fabrics with rabbit skin glue on the balcony and let them dry before pinning them to the wall and painting inside. The three months in Tokyo afforded me the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with Tomio Koyama. I invited him to the studio to see my work in progress. On the basis of this work he invited me to have a solo exhibition “Other lives” in a space the gallery has opened in a new building near Shibuya station.

This train of events wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been prepared to be in Tokyo for three months, one of the crucial aspects of practice if an Australian artist wants representation outside of Australia. Hikarie 8 is a new multi-story building with a floor dedicated to art and design with a restaurant arranged around an exhibition and public presentation space at its center in a lively mix of art and commerce. At the opening I gave a short translated talk on my work where I imagine myself in my daily routine and in other lives.

Pragmatically my work can be rolled or folded to be carried or air freighted relatively easily. I started to work with fabric before travelling a lot and it has certainly been an advantage as I can work anywhere and it makes it easy to transport the work between countries. Finding of fabrics in other locations has become an important part of the work as well.