Jordy Hewitt (b. 1985) is an Australian painter whose work navigates contending life and bodily forces, identity, and the subtle intersections of interior and exterior emotional realms. She grew up near the ocean in Boorloo/Perth, Western Australia, and now works in Walyalup/Fremantle. Since completing a Bachelor of Fine Art and Design at Curtin University in 2014, Hewitt has exhibited continuously both locally and nationally in solo and group exhibitions and prizes including The Hutchins Art Prize (TAS), Whyalla Art Prize (SA), The Agendo Art Prize (VIC) and The Mandorla Art Award (WA). Chorus is her seventh solo exhibition.
Jordy Hewitt’s Chorus is a composition of compositions. But here—unlike in a chorus of voices—that all important thing of harmony, which provides the shortest, straightest line to a pleasing result, is not the composer’s first priority. This series of nine paintings takes a different route, one led by paint and process to a destination of great complexity and richness. It is less a chorus produced by a humble choir and more an invigorating rhapsody: free-flowing, seemingly spontaneous, and assorted in mood, colour and intensity. Each painting feels episodic and distinct, yet the series as a whole is a cohesive movement that holds space for many interpretations.
Hewitt is connected to a close and intricately woven community, and understands herself as being part of a greater whole, as containing multiplicities. The title of this series, Chorus, suggests it is in some way dedicated to that collective wisdom, that greater entity from which Hewitt draws her essence. It is fitting to consider, though, that the word “chorus”, which has its etymological roots in the Greek khoros (c. 1560), speaks both of tragedy and joy, dark and light, dread and beauty. As emotional realms, these seemingly opposing states have never been independent poles—there is a historical and ubiquitous bleeding between the two, a cross-hatching of types and forms, a merging of meanings.
Hewitt understands this on a molecular level. It is ever-apparent in Hewitt’s work that she is perplexed or evaded by joy—or beauty—as much as she appreciates or needs it. In her earlier series Ledge Point (2015), for example, she casts doubt over the typification of beauty in the Western Australian coastline, opting instead to see and present a precipice, a point of friction or, perhaps, one of no return. While her works tend always to culminate beautifully, they carry undertones of quiet questioning, of restrained yet also uncontainable interrogation of life’s darker landscapes: fear, anxiety, destruction, mortality.
The compositions in Chorus are the bold and extroverted product of a private, even sub-conscious journey through, between and out of this same terrain. There is a visible urge to use all the colours, to layer and scrape and redo, to traverse the many possibilities of paint. A spectrum of highly active reds, pinks, greens, yellows and blues compete for agency, and sections of thick paint attempt to dominate patches of diluted underpainting, serving instead to enhance their emanant presence.
If Ledge Point took us to the edge of the earth, then these colours, and Hewitt’s intuitive application of paint—venturing all the way, in some works, to a careful use of dripping—take us to the edge of what is beautiful. In one section of Chorus VII, concrete-grey sits confidently next to and over the top of neon orange, with flanks of muddy red and aquamarine. Chorus V is anchored by a captivating and weighty triangle of inky royal blue. Other pieces are more diffused, though no less brave; in Chorus II, there is a patchwork of colours reminiscent of old lipsticks found in your mother’s bathroom, the canvas itself almost the smudged and stained interior of her long-disused make-up bag. As the eyes wander down this painting, muted fluorescent green, canary yellow and a light-filled sky-blue transport us to an exuberant youth, a blurry dancefloor, perhaps, or the abundant field of a spring day. Similarly, in Chorus IV, pastel yellow, pink and green emanate from the painting’s centre, as if bursting toward us, before vanishing on one side into a lavender plane and meeting, on the other, grounding marks of brown and orange. There is immense joy in these paintings, but it is easy to feel they may be wrought from more arduous emotional and, particularly at this large scale, physical work than their surface beauty might first have us believe.
Hewitt’s practice has a relationship to existential, mythological and astrological inquiry, but these interrogations can be seen, here and elsewhere in her oeuvre, to find full expression in the tangible, bodily world. Her work reflects a constant grappling with her own worldly experience as vessel or channel, crossing between the light and dark edges of her felt realities and parallel emotional places. The pure energy of the works in Chorus—a product of the way Hewitt paints in short, productive bursts and through total submission to process—brings this into clearer view. The mark-making is instinctive: the works at first appear muddled, or as if certain colours or pieces are in the wrong places, but it is not long before all those pieces come together with a sense of preordained unity.
There is something eternal about the wisdom Hewitt brings, in this way, to the paintings in Chorus. It is as if the lives of those who came before her and who surround her now, and the echoes of their many tragedies and triumphs, combine in this now joyful song, this composition, this constantly repeating offering that is laden with the fullness of human experience. These works embrace the ageless plurality of the chorus, declaring the circular relationship of the light and dark in a disparate yet singular voice. To venture to the edge is really to push toward the centre—the innermost part—which is sometimes the darkest or the most devoid of joy, and also the most potent source of lightness, of life, of beauty.
Written by Emma Pegrum.