Moray Gallery

Jessica Crothall: Rods and Poles

6-27 May 2022

Artist talks: Friday 6th May 1pm and Saturday 14th May 11.30am.

About a decade ago, between 2010-2011 Christchurch was shaken awake by a series of significant earthquakes. For Jessica Crothall, these cataclysmic events produced a shift in her painting. Her work since 2012 has been exploring the themes of chaos, destruction, rebuild and new beginnings, death and resurrection. Jessica draws from geometric abstraction referencing buildings, structures, and whole cities. This series, Rods and Poles, is her fourth in response to these ideas since 2012.
The initial inspiration for Rods and Poles began when one photograph of the destruction of Christchurch particularly took her attention. The photograph depicted rescue workers lowering a male victim down from a demolished building. It instantly brought to Jessica’s mind the Deposition of Christ – a theme in ancient religious painting portraying Christ being removed from the cross after he had died, only to rise again three days later. Before a resurrection comes a time of dying, and as the earth went through a time of shaking, new priorities began to present themselves, and old things were to be laid aside.
Rods and Poles shows a new development in Jessica’s style with the introduction of bright rainbow hues. She says, “despite the challenging times and struggles we are going through I like to be positive and optimistic for the future. That is why I have deliberately chosen bright colours. Life has times of darkness, suffering and pain, as well as times of great joy and light.” This statement hints also at one of the symbolic themes of this series, where, in Psalm 23 the imagery of a rod is used as a symbol of comfort, nurture, guidance and of authority.
The techniques used in Rods and Poles echo Jessica’s earlier series of abstract earthquake paintings. In this series however, Jessica takes the initial imagery through an unfolding series of abstractions moving away from the original more realistic rendering of the scene. While in Christchurch, in its process of rebuilding, she noticed the extensive use of scaffolding. This experience has subliminally affected her painting and the compositions look like they consist of overlapping rods and poles. The symbol of the pole, again relevant to Jessica as it connects with the action of pole-vaulting, to overcome ones obstacles and find a new place to land.

 Written by David James

LINK to ODT review by Robyn Maree Pickens