Artgaze Magazine | Jak Henson | Panic Button

Published On May 24, 2013 | By Bernadette Ashley | Exhibitions
Jak Henson, 'Panic Button' 2013

Jak Henson, ‘Panic Button’ 2013


Panic Button by Townsville artist Jak Henson is the closest in spirit to her earlier paintings of any of her recent sculptural works. This is perhaps because her installations You are Here [Strand Ephemera 2011] and Remember when we used to go to the beach [Swell Sculpture Festival 2012] were both public works for outdoor art festivals, reflected their site and purpose, and encouraged playful engagement.

Panic Button, on the other hand, moves back towards Henson’s semi abstract depictions of internal states of being. An installation filling a side gallery at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, the suspended jungle vine structure with bulbous nodes represents the central nervous system. The twining structure is swathed in bandages, and on the end of an upright extension from the lowest node is a bright red button labelled ‘panic’.

The extension is like a joy stick which you can imagine grasping with your fingers, and using your thumb to push the panic button, but implicit in the mere act of imagining that is the anxiety of not knowing what it may unleash. ‘Panic’ is a loaded word in itself – we hear, or in this case see it, and immediately begin looking for a potentially problematic situation. ‘What’s wrong?’ we want to know, but for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, it is the mind gnawing on itself in the face of unspecified fears, the internal meltdown which the outsider cannot necessarily see any rational reason for.

The room is semi-darkened, lit by a projection which creates shadows of the sculpture on the wall, effectively enlarging and complicating the tangle of nerves. Grids of numbers are neatly and obsessively hand written across the walls. The contrast between the textural dichotomy of the neat numbers and the sinuousness of the shadowy sculpture causes the space to reek of anxiety: it is alien, but familiar; aberrantly beautiful, but unnerving. Interestingly, given the close relationship between the mind and the gut in processing anxiety, the idea of knotted intestines also emanates from the work.

In her artist’s statement, Henson states, “The bandages are an attempt to protect the nervous system, and the numbers present a visual sense of counting, which at times can limit anxiety.”  She also describes the installation as depicting “…a psychological attempt to control anxiety…” and the work is obviously an insight by someone familiar with the condition and its ravages.

It is a successful work in being such a gutteral response to, and depiction of, the anxious state and the wish to escape. The little red Panic Button itself reads like a raw nerve ending.

Jak Henson is the Exhibitions and Collection Officer at PTRG, and the founding director and editor of Art Gaze magazine in 2007, in its original hard copy format, before handing over to Artgaze Lab Inc in 2012 to re-focus on visual arts and her foray into public art. Her (characteristically quiet) contribution to the arts in north Queensland has been immense.


Jak Henson

Panic Button 2013

Paper mache, muslin, bandages, wire, projection

April 19 2013 – May 19 2013

Perc Tucker Regional Gallery




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About The Author

A former journalist with a degree in Visual Arts and a decade's experience in street latin dancing, Ashley is active in many aspects of the Townsville cultural community as an arts and dance writer and reviewer, dance teacher, choreographer and performer, artist, facilitator, board member and collaborator. She has reviewed visual, new media arts and dance for niche arts publications such as Realtime and Imprint, and was the Galleries columnist for the Townsville Bulletin from 2010 until 2012. Ashley is the mother of three sons - one mathematician/physicist and two artist/writers - is obsessed with Cuba, drinks too much coffee, and would like to master Argentine Tango by the time she reaches 80.