Work in Progress – Jan Hynes & Alan Valentine
We’ve all seen the crazy lengths building and public works organisations go to for safety these days. There has never been a time when work sites have been more littered with signage and high-visibility gear. This trend has been well documented and parodied in Jan Hynes and Alan Valentine’s exhibition: Work in Progress. Jan uses oil on canvas to depict hilarious scenes of workers trying to do their jobs in the safest way possible – any safer and they’d all be in bubble wrap suits. Jan’s work comes with a particular “finished” feel, not present in all contemporary work. There is never a blank section of canvas left, and attention is paid right to the border of the canvas where the image wraps around. She also has a great command of lighting, realistically depicting highlights and shadows as they would appear in reality. Some of the imagery shows safety equipment and signage in a library which seems like a pretty safe place – but every possibility of injury seems to be stemmed by the rules, regulations, policies and procedures of the organisation – except perhaps paper-cuts.
The paintings also document the changes in worksite-culture in recent times, with more women on the job than previously, and the introduction of high-viz uniforms featuring corporate logos, worn almost “like a sporting-team”.
Alan Valentine prefers sculpture, working with wire, silver solder, paint, polymer clay, wood, and more to depict workmen in various poses with different equipment. One of the pieces even moves. “Helping Hands” can be ‘used’ by turning a small crank which makes the scenery above move. A little mower-man mows in a circle around a coconut tree, while other workmen lift the silver coconuts so well known by locals from Townsville’s strand. Alan is also meticulous in the presentation and finish of his work. The soldered wire figures have no messy globs of solder in the joins, and the kinetic sculpture works without pause or error. Playing with it brings joy to the observer(s).
The show even opened in theme. An actor opened the exhibition wearing safety gear, and inducted everyone into “The safe viewing of artwork”. Guests were warned of the signs of art viewer’s fatigue and what to do in case of an unexpected reaction. Artwork deemed to be high-risk could be cordoned off with bollards if it was posing a threat to visitor safety.
Work in progress is an intelligent and humorous show. Jan and Alan have worked well together with the theme and even their level of finish is matched. Work in Progress is on show at Umbrella Studio until 29 September 2013.