Jacqueline Hennessy

Jacqueline Hennessy’s feminine figures offer themselves to our gaze, conditionally: a body, a gesture, the minutiae of fabric or hair, in restrained tonal paintings. Faces are rare. In The Gaze I (2018), a woman looks down, fingers pressed into her eyes. Her dress is traditional (evoking an Edwardian style), sleeves and skirt covering her body, yet revealing its contour beneath. In Untitled (2020) we see, in sharp relief, detail of the print of a dress and hands, with a face obscured by hair and blurriness. Painted in layers, with the weave of the canvas showing through, these images exhibit control, translucence achieved through washes of thin raw umber paint, worked meticulously, then disrupted with over-brushing and worked again.

“My process involves playing between binary opposites to create a tension between appearance and disappearance, painted and unpainted, detail and blur. I work slowly, building the surface up over time in layers on a support of linen primed with rabbit skin glue. I feel that there is poetry in my process. The emergence of the painting between dualisms mirrors the emergence of the experience of self – between the invisible subject and visible body object,” says Hennessy. She is the model for these works, yet the paintings are less autobiographical than universal – what she captures is a fragile, ephemeral sense of how it feels to be a woman in a world led by the gaze.

Hennessy (born 1977) graduated with a Masters of Fine Art (Painting) from Sydney’s National Art School in 2019. Before studying art she worked as a lawyer, then completed her Honours degree in Psychology. Hennessy was the inaugural recipient of the Tweed Regional Gallery – National Art School MFA Residency Award in 2019. The award enabled Hennessy to spend time in Gallery’s Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence Studio and develop new work for her solo exhibition ‘Still life’ opening at Tweed Regional Gallery in April 2021.

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