The Secret Life of Jennifer Jane Allinson

Staircase detailJennifer Allinson (a.k.a. JJ) has a secret life, but of course she is not alone in that. All of us have an inner world of, fantasies, dreams, and musings, those "psychic forces" which Freud classically investigated. If you read her artist's statement though, you would hardly suppose that those "psychic forces" propelled her work in any way. In a matter of fact, highly articulate way she dwells on the practicalities of making her sculpture, candidly aiming for work in "a no-man's-land, ...blurring the boundaries between the applied and fine arts" (for the record, this is less provocative than the Russian Constructivist Alexei Gan's assertion that "art is dead" and that henceforth useful objects should be made with artistic imagination.).

Her emphasis of audience participation and "functionality", (her sculptures "can be worn, constructed, launched, and climbed") is a far cry from GanCs brutal utilitarianism. She also hints at the metaphorical role of her sculpture, falling dandelions of a journey through life, or the male and female forms of her meticulously fabricated glass arrows, but she is never a programmatic issue-based artist. She never confuses her activity with that of the journalist, social worker, or educator, the content of her work instead rising from inner intuitions and dualities. These dualities are common to all of us and were often classified by Freud as, for example, unconscious manifestations of wish fulfilment, repression, or sublimation. Just consider some of the themes she has engaged, contraptions which rectify behaviour, a ladder which leads to a cage, Winter Flowers which, ostensibly beautiful, detonate at the merest touch.

Of one of her projects she remarks, "the work is inviting yet threatening, beautiful yet disturbing". The metaphors and dualities which she deploys are indeed disturbing. It is no accident that she calls her arrow piece, "Dare". "Dare you open the box? Have you the courage to construct the bow, take aim, and shoot for your target?" she says. Dare you, I would add, come to terms with the layers of troubling emotions concealed in the inner life of these deceptively beguiling works?



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