The paintings in Jenna Packer’s A History of Flight traverse time and location forging connections, possibilities and scenarios that defy logic. The undoubted success of these works is revealed through the invention of circumstance, the establishment of belief and in the authoritative narratives that emerge.
Packer paints with acrylics but achieves the nuances, runs and blends of watercolour. Her considerable prior experience as a printmaker is also clearly evident in the command of detail, the elemental role of ascending and descending scale, the varied treatment of space.
At the heart of these paintings are narratives of endeavour – science, history, industry and exploration – with contrasts between fragility and naturalism, between imminence and threat, between contradictions and facts.
Where are we going and where have we come from? Packer has created a fictionalised world that ends up in New Zealand and Otago. It looks to the past and uses this to navigate the present and future. In the tumultuous Typhoon (2009) and Kakapowai (Devil’s Darning Needles) (2009) prehistoric dragonflies dominate the skies. Below an improbable flotilla of boats, ships and waka sail. Te Awa Mokihi (Butterfly Bay) (2009) is located in Karitane and places the French ship ‘La Coquille’ and beached waka there while hot air balloons drift along the peninsula. Jenna Packer has built metaphors of menace and devotion, of human endeavour and the restlessness of spirit that celebrate the impermanence of achievements, the unreliable progressions of time and the consequences of improbability.