Jenny Watson

This Year's Fashion, 1984 or 1986
oil and horse hair on Vilene
137 x 91 cm (image); 144.5 x 99 cm (frame)
signed and dated by the artist in April 2023 ‘Jenny/Watson/1984’ (on the reverse of frame)

View extended notes

(probably) Art Projects, Melbourne
Malcolm Enright, Brisbane
20th Century Art & Design, Phillips Auctioneers, Sydney, 2 May 1999, lot. 67
Private collection, Melbourne

(possibly) Image Codes: Art About Fashion, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 1985 (a work in the exhibition brochure shares the same title, though it may be the related work, This Year’s Fashion I, 1984, Collection of Martin Grant, Paris, France)

Judy Annear, Jenny Watson: Paintings with Veils and False Tails, 45th Venice Biennale, Australian Exhibitions Touring Agency Ltd, Melbourne, 1993, illus. p. 22 (dated as 1986)

Related work: This
Year’s Fashion I
, 1984, 
synthetic polymer paint and horse hair on vilene, 250 x 150 cm approx. Collection of Martin
Grant, Paris, France

Jenny Watson is known for work that is in equal parts personal as it is conceptual. Heavily influenced by the punk and feminist movements of the 1970s, Watson developed a deliberately naïve painting style which she has carefully honed from the 1980s to the present day. 

Regularly making use of collage, including sculptural elements like ribbons, photographs and horsehair, Watson is known for figurative works that are ambiguous as to their subject – either the artist herself, or else a character or persona through which Watson can channel her visual and conceptual ideas. 

This Year’s Fashion
is a work from the mid-1980s of oil and horsehair on Vilene (now ‘Vlieseline’), a fabric used as interfacing in tailoring and dressmaking. The work depicts a young woman keeled over, her languid body in the shape of a fishhook, with what appears to be barbed wire wrapped around her hips.

This work relates to the similarly titled This Year’s Fashion I (1984) which is in the collection of Australian fashion designer Martin Grant, Paris, France. That work is described by Anna Davis, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art as showing “a woman bending over from the waist in a sexy pose that causes her hair, made from a horse’s tail, to completely cover her face. She is wearing the distinctive style of clothing that women often wore to the Crystal Ballroom – pointed heels and a tight-fitting, tatty skirt.”

With the addition of barbed wire and the splashes of red paint around her waist and down her leg, the work perhaps reflects more on the pain and discomfort inherent to many trends in women’s fashion.
 Watson has applied horsehair to the work hanging from the figure’s head. The artist introduced horsehair into her work from the mid-1980s – after buying a horse in 1982 – and has continued to use the material regularly since then. (Jack Howard)

  • This Year's Fashion

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. Photograph by Geoff Boccalatte.

View artist profile

Jenny Watson was born in Melbourne in 1951 and lives and works between Brisbane, Australia and Europe. She trained at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School, Melbourne in the early 1970s. In 1993 Watson exhibited at the Australian Pavilion for the 45th Venice Biennale.

Watson has been included in the major group exhibitions 'Pop to Popism', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014; 'Mix Tape 1980s Appropriation, Subculture, Critical Style', National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013; 'Avoiding Myth and Message: Australian Artists and the Literary World', Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009; 'Unscripted: Language in Contemporary Art', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005; 'Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968-2002', The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002; 'Australian Bicentennial Perspecta', Art Gallery of Western Australia, and subsequent tour to Frankfurter Kunstverein & Stuttgart, Wurttembergischer Kunstverein, West Germany, 1988-89; Sixth Triennale of India, Dehli, India (Awarded Gold Medal), 1986; 'Vox Pop; Into the 80s', National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1983; 'Popism', National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1981; 'Australian Perspecta', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1981.

Jenny Watson is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.