Jill McKnight

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/68069-jill-mcknight

Vitrine is delighted to present the first London solo exhibition by Sunderland born, Leeds based artist Jill
McKnight. The exhibition brings together new and existing works produced whilst on a two-month residency at
The Art House, Wakefield, that continues the artist’s investigations into the working-class experience, feminism,
identity, domestic life, the home and labour. As a female artist from a working-class background, McKnight’s work
seeks to foreground working-class stories, which are often absent or excluded from artistic and cultural discourse.

Working across sculpture, drawing, painting, printmaking and writing, McKnight’s practice draws on her own
experience of being a working-class woman and exploring how they exist within feminist and artistic lineages.

A recurring theme in McKnight’s work, and central to the works included in this exhibition, is water. Informed
by growing up in the former industrial town of Sunderland in the north east of England which is situated by the
mouth of the River Wear, McKnight draws on genealogical stories and histories of her family members who had
emigrated from Ireland to Liverpool, then Sunderland, finding employment in the city’s burgeoning shipyard trade,
fish and chip shops, Royal Navy and a telephone factory. Alongside these stories and their own relationship to
water, McKnight’s work also asks one to consider water on a universal scale, from borders and migration to shifting
landscapes (flooding, droughts and climate change) and as a fecund and essential source of sustenance and care.

The works included in A room in which many of the parts of our lives were placed takes water as its impetus and
extends it into themes of feminism, the working-class experience, the connection between art making, traditional
industries, labour and domestic life whilst simultaneously asserting their own personal, familial and collective
histories and stories.

Loosely employing psychologist Ernst Prelinger’s investigations into the connection between possessions and the
construction of the self which consisted of eight fundamental principles: ‘1. Body arts (e.g., the skin, the genital
organs) 2. Psychological or intraorganismic processes (e.g., the conscience, an itching on the sole of the foot), 3.
Personal identifying characteristics and attributes (e.g., age, occupation), 4. Possessions and productions (e.g.,
watch, perspiration, toilet articles), 5. Abstract ideas (e.g., the morals of society, the law), 6. Other people (e.g.,
the people in your hometown, father), 7. Objects within the close physical environment (e.g., dirt on the hands,
furniture in this room), 8. Distant physical environment (e.g., the adjoining room, the moon)’. McKnight’s sculptures,
drawings, paintings and prints are concerned with their own upbringing. Drawing on memories – or confabulations
– she attempts to examine labour and sculpture-making in relation to the domestic and working-class homes whilst
simultaneously asserting their own personal, familial and collective histories and stories.

Throughout the gallery space, domestic household items sit on iridescent pools and resemble anthropomorphic
figures or characters. In the largest of the works presented, McKnight explores the home as an extension of the body in which household appliances such as a hoover (Vacuum Cleaner Hydra, 2021) or a clothes airer (Ladder
Clotheshorse, 2021) symbolically and literally act as signifiers of domestic life. Exaggerated in scale to reference
the human body, in Vacuum Cleaner Hydra several tangling hoses resemble octopus tentacles and carry everyday
items such as a mobile phone or antibacterial cleaning spray whilst the flesh-like coloured Ladder Clotheshorse
references the artist’s father and his first job building ladders for ships at the age of sixteen. In these, dense and
thickly applied layers of coarse plaster bandage, hessian and polyurethane foam replete with swathes of acrylic
paint are built up layer upon layer to the point where the material becomes unattainable, oozing from the skeletal
frame exposing their chicken wire innards (resembling nets or mesh) and revealing the process and labour behind
their making.

Stories of the home, fantastical tales or magical folklore seep into a number of the works, rendering them at times
humorous and disturbing. Here, the body melds with the detritus of domestic life: a washing machine resembles a
digestive system (Oracles, 2021) and a self-portrait (You Shall Have a Fishy, 2021) depicts the artist regurgitating
a fish tail. Elsewhere, a series of prints and drawings that can be read as preliminary workings for the larger
sculptural works and words, phrases and reflections contained in resin or scribed in acrylic and gouache punctuate
the gallery space. In another body of work titled Foot (After Guernica), 2021, McKnight draws on a copied version
of Picasso’s 1937 Guernica painted by her father that hung in the artist’s home. This work not only nods to the
creative sensibility of the artist’s hand but that of her father who worked in the shipyards in Sunderland. Reflecting
on how this was the first artwork that she became familiar with, these works consider where McKnight sits not only
within a working-class, industrial lineage but in a wider artistic one.

Alongside sculptural works, drawings, prints and paintings, a new audio work narrated by the artist will uncover
their relationship to the objects, symbols and markers of identity which contributed to the development of the
works presented throughout the gallery. Part valediction and part inventory log book, this new text will contrast
emotive subtexts with factual data, drawing on the complex lives and inspiring determination of the working-class
women she grew up around including their grandmothers, who, like McKnight, were ‘great storytellers’. Interested
in the relationship between the personal and the universal, McKnight’s works are not only concerned with tracing
their own upbringing, memories and construction of identity and self, but the wider ways in which art can help
shape our own experiences.

Jill McKnight (b. 1990, Sunderland, UK) lives and works in Leeds, UK. She holds a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths,
University of London (2013) and has been part of Syllabus III, a peer-led alternative learning programme jointly
delivered by Wysing Arts Centre, Eastside Projects, New Contemporaries, S1 Artspace, Spike Island, Iniva and
Studio Voltaire.
McKnight has exhibited at galleries and institutions Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK; Wysing Arts Centre,
Cambridge, UK; Saatchi Gallery, London, UK; South London Gallery, London, UK; Art House, Wakefield, UK;
Recent Activity, Birmingham, UK; Great Exhibition of the North, The NewBridge Project, Newcastle, UK; Bronze
Dog Project Space, Gothenburg, SE; Platform Southwark, London, UK; Guest Projects, London, UK; Serf, Leeds,
UK; Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Leeds, UK; Basic Space, Dublin, IE; Basement Arts Project,
Leeds, UK; Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, UK; Crown Building Studios, Liverpool, UK; Freehold Projects, Leeds, UK;
Lady Beck, Leeds, UK; Hyde Park Art Club, Leeds, UK.Awards include: Arts Council England DYCP (Developing
your Creative Practice); Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award (2020); Yorkshire Sculpture International Sculpture
Network (2020); a-n Artist Bursary (2020) and Yorkshire Sculpture International Associate Artist (2019).
The artist is currently in-residence for ‘Collections in Dialogue’, a new co-commission project between Leeds Art
Gallery and the British Library, which will culminate in the artist’s first institutional solo show at Leeds Art Gallery,
UK (March 2022).

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/68069-jill-mcknight