Wellspring 2021

October 15, 2021

Kolbusz Space, Perth

Catalogue essay by Leta Keens

Jordy Hewitt is an explorer; in Wellspring, she risks everything and heads into the unknown. In previous series, she has explored her response to happenings around and of herself – the death of a grandmother, the birth of a child, for instance – and developed, over a number of years, colour field painting to translate her ideas onto canvas. The culmination can be found in Other Wise, her 2020 exhibition, which explored her response to being a mother for the second time. Here, while it was clear that Hewitt was investigating the psychological, mythological and astrological themes she has been interested in for so long, there was also the sense, seen in the distinct horizontal planes found within those paintings, that she was subconsciously aiming to assert some type of order over her inner – and perhaps outer – world.

In Wellspring, she realises that such attempts at control are futile. This, quite clearly, is a series for our current times. Overwhelmed by the realities of the world in which she finds herself, Hewitt’s response – like that of many of us – is to retreat within herself and explore the depths of her imagination, her experience, her being. She is unable to affect, or even rationally respond to the outer world, so aims to cocoon herself against it. She’s searching for a source of energy that is both esoteric and pure – digging into the well to find out what’s there – claiming back territory that is without expectation or judgement.

The works are completely joyful and unexpected, and radiate positivity. Rather than a revisiting of earlier series, what is apparent in Wellspring is the artist’s realisation that, when viewed anew, the inner world is completely fertile and largely unexplored terrain, untrammelled by such constraints as gender, history and analysis. The revelation is that there is no need for invention or re-invention; even if not immediately apparent, everything is contained within, and Hewitt shows a willingness to dig deep and lay herself open to whatever she discovers. While a wellspring might suggest abundance, there’s no sense in these paintings that the source is either relentless or unvaried – energy comes in many forms, from the calming and tranquil to the exuberant, and almost volcanic. It is, however, always authentic and true.

While purely abstract, the works in Wellspring speak of isolation – of the importance to Hewitt of where she lives, and her relishing of the newness of it. These could be landscapes, they could be the bush – the colours are redolent of Australianness in the loosest possible form. It’s up to the viewer to make connections, and Hewitt leaves space to let that happen.

For Hewitt, exploration takes a number of forms – the genesis for Wellspring might be the search within herself, but exploration also has a physical manifestation. As with all her work, she builds up layers of paint – in this case, oil – with brushes and, for the first time, small palette knives. But here, just as important as the layering is the mining, the scraping away – sometimes urgently with the handle of the brush or palette knife – to find out if there’s anything important, valuable or unimagined beneath. There so often is.

In revealing both the exploration of self and her hand in the making of these works, Hewitt demonstrates confidence and strength, as well as a certain level of generosity. This, in turn, allows the viewer to contemplate a wellspring of their own, a response which could hardly be more welcome.