Jenna Packer paints delicately detailed works that appear at first to be historical observations, but upon closer inspection there emerges an alternative colonial history that contains mystery, humour, contradiction and wonderful elements of farce. Although the works have the authority of very particular locations and are strikingly familiar, they are also an amalgam of disparate events and in that way become increasingly strange and dream-like.
The varying passages of time has always been an intrinsic element in Packer’s paintings and in this new body of work the layered narratives reach into depression-era New Zealand – we view desolate wharves, ruined houses, steam trains, waka and wayward balloons. Collectively these speak of a particular time but also to the transitory nature of it. An air of melancholy arises and yet we know it will pass. Packer in works such as The Camp reveals life and time to be tenuous, existence impermanent and structure skeletal. Yet there exists purpose and constant human endeavour in each work.
Stories are being told in scenes and vignettes within each work. Clothing speaks to differing times, persuasions and jobs. Washing hangs from zeppelin girders, the hopeful splendour of a blue and gold Montgolfier balloon rises to the heavens, jewelled dragonflies alter space and scale. Packer is now firmly established as a considerable painter of social narratives with a unique stylistic voice and vision.