Narelle Jubelin’s research-based practice directs our attention towards tiny fragments of large histories with great exactness. Evidence of complex interrelations in the alternately dystopian and utopian histories of imperialism and modernism are demonstrated by Jubelin at a tangible level. She shows that in small things lie the analytical tools for a deeper, more probing understanding of dominant discourses, furnishing questions. In the case of the ideals of modernism, the life-impacting fields of object design and architecture occupy her work often viewed through the lens of the lived experience of individual perspectives. This sense of moments taken from scenarios more vast is emphasised by her insistence upon the miniature as both a pictorial format and an ethics for the production of objects which in turn feeds into the economies within which objects circulate. Her work is a conversation between grandiosity and humility motivated by the power of the miniature which in her hands often inhabits and punctuates larger architecturally-scaled installation, her self-made objects frequently exhibited alongside historically-embedded readymade ones.
Her work is not only very small but it is very slow, rendered in the precise detail achievable in single-thread petit point, an immensely time-consuming industry. For thirty years, she has worked in miniature at slow, slow speed - politically - maximising commitment to memory. Her principal medium - painterly - is coloured cotton thread stitched into silk mesh though its origins are photographic from archival sources (both canonical and casually personal). More often than not, her coloured sewings are renditions of black and white photographs which, when sourced from books, carry the images’ original captions as an indispensable part. Each tiny sewn image operates like a conjunction in a grammatical structure to give additional context, give alternatives, give reasons or give unexpected information. Sewings also operate as punctuation. Her bodies of exhibited work have the parlance of sentences without beginnings or endings, their unfinishedness projecting the future itineraries of images and objects and assuming pasts.
Jubelin’s language of display substantiates transparency (she shows the meticulous fronts as well as the disordered backs of the sewings) and shuns arbitrariness. Every element operates in the service of conceptual underpinning – especially in the area of framing both literal and metaphorical. While she often works collaboratively, her process of sewing is not social, not done in the company of others. Her workspace is a cloistered remove away from distraction, a kind of exile that magnifies concentration and “renounc[es] the rhetoric of authority.”[i]
Narelle Jubelin (b. 1960) has an extensive exhibition history which, from the outset, has been marked by international scope and rigour. Between 1985 and 1987, Jubelin was co-founder (with Roger Crawford, Tess Horwitz and Paul Saint) of Firstdraft Gallery
, Sydney, which remains today the longest running artist-run-initiative in Australia. Jubelin achieved major international recognition early in her career, initially by her being selected for the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale, curated by Giovanni Carandente, in 1990 where she presented her installation, Trade Delivers People
. Other key group exhibitions of the nineties include: Foreign Affair, for Places with a Past: New Site Specific Art in Charleston
, Spoletto Festival, Charleston, the benchmark exhibition curated by Mary Jane Jacob (1991); Doubletake: Collective Memory and Current Art
, curated by Lynne Cooke, Bice Curiger and Greg Hilty, at the Hayward Gallery, London and the Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Boundary Rider, Ninth Biennale of Sydney
, curated by Tony Bond, Sydney (both 1992); The Day After Tomorrow
, curated by Isabel Carlos, Centro Cultural de Belem, Lisbon; cocido y crudo (the raw and the cooked)
, curated by Dan Cameron, Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Localities of Desire: contemporary art in an international world
, curated by Bernice Murphy, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (all 1994); Colonial Post Colonial
, curated by Juliana Engberg, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (1996); Changing Spaces: Artists Projects from The Fabric Workshop and Museum
, curated by Mary Jane Jacob, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver (with multi-venue US tour) (1997-1998).
In 1996, Jubelin relocated from Sydney to Madrid where, after almost twenty years, she still resides. She lives with architect, Marcos Corrales Lantero
, who, since 1994, has often been involved in Jubelin’s exhibitions as collaborator especially with regard to display structures. Continuing with group exhibitions, she participated in Leaving Tracks
, curated by Lewis Biggs and Robert Hopper, Tate Gallery, Liverpool; Personal Effects: The Collective Unconscious
, curated by Ewen Macdonald, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (both 1998); Material World: 25 Years of the Fabric Workshop and Museum
, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2001); Annotations for 21st Century Modern, the 2006 Adelaide Biennial of Art,
curated by Linda Michael, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2006); The Future is Unwritten,
for Provisions for the Future
, Sharjah Biennial 9, Sharjah, UAE and Learning Modern
, curated by Mary Jane Jacob, School of the Art Institute Sullivan Gallery, Chicago (both 2009); Future Primitive
, curated by Linda Michael, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); Drawing Biennial 2015
, Drawing Room, London (2015).
Jubelin has presented numerous solo exhibitions over three decades in public institutions internationally with a particular emphasis on university museums. These include: Dead Slow,
curated by Director, Andrew Nairne, at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow (1991); Soft Shoulder
, curated by Director, Susanne Ghez, at The Renaissance Society, The University of Chicago (1994) and presented at the Grey Art Gallery & Study Center a New York University and was further developed by Monash University Gallery Melbourne as Soft and Slow
with the commissioning of a collaborative photographic essay by Jacky Redgate (1995); ECRU – Trading Images
, curated by Isabel Carlos, at Pavilhão Branco, Instituto de Arte Contemporanea, Lisbon (1998); On Writing. Writing On
, curated by Suellen Luckett, John Curtin University Gallery, Perth (2002).
In 2008, a discursive collaborative Project, Front of House
, with Marcos Corrales, Ângela Ferreira, Narelle Jubelin and Andrew Renton, for Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art in London was further articulated in The Great Divide
, a two-person exhibition with Ângela Ferreira curated, by Wayne Tunnicliffe, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2009) that incorporated the major work, A LANDSCAPE IS NOT SOMETHING YOU LOOK AT BUT SOMETHING YOU LOOK THROUGH
, from Jubelin’s Ungrammatical Landscape
, curated by Director, Yolanda Romero for the Centro José Guerrero in Granada (2006). These inter-related works and exhibitions are exemplary of Jubelin’s working method to which collaboration and the work as fragment of a larger conceptual whole are essential.
Recent solo exhibitions include Narelle Jubelin: Cannibal Tours
, curated by Ann Stephen, at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2009). In 2012, Ann Stephen and Luke Parker co-curated a vast, itinerant solo exhibition of Jubelin’s work, Vision in Motion
, at the University of Sydney that focused on the ongoing critical presence of architecture and the built environment in the artist’s work. Vision in Motion
travelled to Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2012) and the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, the University of South Australia, Adelaide (2013). A website
was built to accompany the exhibition; Two extensive projects were recently developed for the Iberian Península: Afterimage
, for La Casa Encendida, Madrid (2012) and Plantas e Plantas [Plants and Plans]
, curated by Isabel Carlos, at the Centro de Arte Moderna, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (2013).
Jubelin was represented by Mori Gallery, Sydney, continuously since the mid-1980s where she had seven solo exhibitions between 1986 and 2004. She is currently represented by Marlborough Contemporary in London where she has held one solo exhibition (2013) and has been included in two group exhibitions (2013 and 2015).
Jubelin’s work is held in major public collections including the Albertina Print Museum, Vienna; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; CAM Centro de Arte Moderna – Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Monash University Art Museum, Melbourne; the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney; the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; the University of Wollongong Art Collection, Wollongong; the University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane.
Flamenca Primitiva, Narelle Jubelin's first solo exhibition at The Commercial was in April 2016, her first solo exhibition in Australia in over a decade.
[i] Ann Stephen, ‘Face-to-Face’, in Cannibal Tours, exh. cat. Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, p, 14