Words by Byron Coley
Mayonnaise is an incredibly simple condiment to create. You need only three ingredients to make a perfect slimy batch of the stuff. Mayonnaise is also the title of the new show by the brilliant, London-based painter, Jo Robertson. Her recipe, as you might expect, is rather more complex.
Born in Manchester in 1979, Ms. Robertson first began to make her mark early in this century. Divesting herself of the hippie trappings of her wastrel youth, she created the Blood ‘n Feathers collective with Lucy Stein. Producing work in a variety of media, Blood ‘n Feathers interwove several varieties of didacticism, creating parallel commentaries on sexual politics, celebrity culture and the history of art itself. This early body of work, created inside the context of Glasgow’s School of Art and London’s Slade School of Fine Art, culminated with its inclusion in the 2006 “Beck’s Futures” show at the London ICA.
Working more or less solo after that, Ms. Robertson continued her adventures as a polymath. Performing and recording music, writing poetry for publication, and curating a variety of shows, as well as continuing her work in several visual disciplines. As a result of several residencies, the most recent at Viafarini in Milan, Ms. Robertson has been deeply focused on painting for the last year. And as the work shown in Mayonnaise demonstrates, her creative vision is powerful, funny and provocative.
The pieces appear figurative – as do most of her paintings – but the images are also detourned to open a dialogue about the female form and its relationship to power, anonymity and relegation to condiment status. The paintings are at once involving and off-putting, suggesting many questions that cannot be easily answered, all while looking goddamn great. It would appear, with the Mayonnaise paintings, that Ms. Robertson is working at a new level of syncretic fever, merging many of her creative impulses into a point of uncommon singularity. It is tempting to say this is her best work yet. In any field. But that is only because her next bomb has yet to be dropped.
Victoriaville, Quebec 2011
Joanne Robertson lives and works in London. Solo shows include Francesco Pantaleone Contemporanea, Sicily (2009), URA, Istanbul (2008) and Blow de la Barra, London, (2008 and 2006). Her work is included in Expanded Painting at the Prague Biennial, May – September 2011.