Pact (2) Jenny Evans, 2010
This is a response to work by Jenny Evans, originally exhibited in Bones, Market Gallery London, June 2010.
Pact is a pair of paintings. Each depicts a valentine steak; meat sliced most of the way through and folded open, giving an almost heart shaped symmetry. The paintings reflect on human agreements: promises or pacts, and physical relationality. The combination of promises and flesh recalls, among other things, the Torah. It records that to seal a covenant participants would cut an animal into pieces, place them on the ground and then walk between the pieces with joined hands. The Hebrew term for covenant is Karath Berith - 'to cut a covenant'.
The paintings are roughly human-sized and stand on the floor. They are placed facing each other across the room; a further symmetry which the viewer disturbs by walking between them. They are figurative paintings yet they are attempting to make you aware of both how they relate to each other and your own spatial relationship with them; like a piece of minimalist sculpture might.
The pairings suggested in the work’s title, and the actual appearance of the flesh, are strongly sexual in nature. This is affirmed by the words of the co-exhibited neon sign You Made Us Male and Female. In this work a biblical quote ('male and female he created them') is subtly altered into second person narrative; appropriating or paraphrasing the text into a personal context. The direction of the statement is thereby altered, so that the viewer is given access to part of a conversation rather than necessarily being addressed. This idea could also be applied to the paintings. Sexuality is presented here as beautiful, risky - cutting yourself open, damaging the autonomy of your own body to facilitate something else. It's worth noting that in Christian theology, physical sexuality can be analogous to the way people relate to other people and things in a more general sense.
I like to see Evans' use of flesh as semi political in a 'the personal is political' sense. It seems to say that even if materially similar, we are, at a vital level, violently divided. Her feelings about the ideas presented seem almost uncomfortably direct. The paintings are specific, purposeful, asking us to think about how we, as meat, relate to other meat. No political mediators, just the fact of human interrelationality. It seems to me to relate not only to personal relationships but much broader ideas including those human relationships contained and shaped by economic, official and other communal structures.