Jennifer Tee: Let it Come Down
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Opening any art offering with a Shakespeare quote is a bit of a cheat; it’s the intellectual’s ‘here’s one I made earlier’, an analogous cardboard box of themes. But sometimes the loaded strata of those familiar words are the best way to capture the mood of a piece.
For her solo show, Jennifer Tee, a Netherlands artist with Chinese-Indonesian heritage, has dipped into the bloody well of ‘Macbeth’. Before Banquo is murdered, he predicts rain; his killer coldly responds, ‘let it come down’. These four brutal words form the title of Tee’s key piece: a large, zig-zagging collage of dried black tulip petals that appear like delicate plumage on paper. Throughout the exhibition, they will dry, fade and morph in the light. It’s a reference to her grandfather, who made a living trading tulip bulbs.
The unpredictability of the material resonates through the show. Tee has created a work that’s in a constant state of change, putting its meaning in limbo. Another piece, ‘Resist’, has a similar feeling of flux: giant hand-knitted wool textiles cover the floor, interrupted by glazed ceramic forms that peek out from underneath it. Through the rest of the sparse room, ceramic orbs appear like hyper-physical cannon balls thrown into the sides of the gallery walls. It looks minimal, but every piece is made with an unforgiving material that carries the intense labour and skill of its creator.
In another corner, you find a chair piled with a stack of books, including Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ and ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’, each with passages to be read out at undisclosed intervals as ‘reactions’ to the work. If you miss it, as I did, it feels like you’ve misplaced a key piece of the puzzle. But you can’t control it any more than you can control the rain, so just let it wash over you.