Open Frequency 2009: Jackie Chettur selected by Chris Brown
Jackie Chettur, Silver Dream Machine, 1999. Installation. Car, fabrics, screen, lighting video projection, artist's film and video
Chris Brown profiles the work of Jackie Chettur
Perhaps it is the site-specific nature of Jackie Chettur’s ongoing practice that distracts from what ought to be the first observation about her work – that is, the fact that it is often highly accomplished and technically ambitious. Her interventions are incorporated so seamlessly into their carefully chosen settings that the means by which they exist could easily be overlooked, in much the same way that a well constructed theatre or film hides its workings. Indeed, considerations of the traditions of film and theatre are ultimately at the root of Chettur’s work.
In searching for a thread or ongoing concern throughout Chettur’s multi-disciplinary practice, one would be initially thrown by the formal disparity – from a ‘magic lantern’ greenhouse situated on a bandstand (‘The Winter Garden’, Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd, 2006) to a series of specially cast bone china cups ('Station Residency', Pontypridd, 2006) – but nevertheless there is a coherence through this work. Chettur works faithfully with her chosen environments to create a response that fits seamlessly into the setting (a process the artist describes as having ‘meaningful presence’) while introducing an element of fantasy or escapism.
For her residency at Pontypridd railway station the artist drew on the film Brief Encounter (1945), as well as working with local train enthusiasts. In response to the disused buffet, the aforementioned bone china cups were moulded from a found teacup at the station combined with a highly ornate handle (based on a teacup design from nearby Nantgarw china works), creating an invented memory that could be supplanted convincingly and perhaps confused with what had actually gone before. Chettur’s interest lies in the mediation of memory and experience, and how this mediation – particularly a cinematic experience – can sit as an almost tangible memory of the past. It is this play between creating something sincere and emotionally resonant, even though largely based on second-hand experience of film or cultural phenomena, that is the key in the work’s ability to engage the audience.
Akin to the sensibilities of film, Chettur’s meticulous attention to detail is crucial in achieving an emotional resonance. Her recent photographic works ‘310’ (2009) are testament to the laborious processes she undertakes to create convincing fantasies. Here Chettur is responding to the dreariness and uniformity of a chain hotel room. Who hasn’t felt the lifeblood sucked out of them in such an environment? In a gesture that warrants a ‘Wizard of Oz’ comparison, Chettur gives this bland space a dazzling transformation with hand-crafted paper floral arrangements and shimmering drapes. The colour palettes deliberately evoke a bygone era by direct association with film stock and processing techniques of Technicolour film. The resulting images are unmistakably fantastical, but as with Powell and Pressburger’s films, this make-believe is tainted by our own invention and painful memories.
Chris Brown, June 2009
Jackie Chettur lives in Pontypridd, South Wales. She studied BA Hons Ceramics at Camberwell College of Art and Design, London (1991-94) followed by MA Fine Art at University College Institute, Cardiff (2003-4). Recent exhibitions include 310, G39, Cardiff (2009), All Over The Shop, Pontypridd (2007), Parclife, Penpont, Brecon (2007) and Buffet Show, Pontypridd Railway Station (2006).
About Chris Brown
Chris Brown is an artist, musician and co-founder of the artist-run organisation g39. He is responsible for g39's strategic development within Wales, the UK and beyond. He is also Magazine Coordinator for a-n The artists information company, and acts in an advisory capacity for a-n's NAN and AIR initiatives. Chris is currently studying postgraduate Composition and Jazz at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff) and is a member of Go Faster Stripe, an independent collective that promotes high-profile UK comedians through its programme of live acts and DVD production.
Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.