Skye Sherwin writing in Artist of the week Guardian 12 July 2012
Jennet Thomas‘s films conjure delirious parallel universes in everyday Britain’s most mundane corners. People shop in Sainsbury’s, watch daytime TV and eat packed lunches from Tupperware boxes. Yet in this Looking Glass world, what we take for granted is quickly turned inside out. Preachers, teachers and quasi-political pundits with bright yellow or purple skin harangue its denizens with songs and slide presentations; the beliefs and rules they champion are full of promise, but always obscure.
“All suffering soon to end,” pronounces the sinister character who doorstops an elderly couple in the 2010 film of this name, with his wig, skin and clothes the colour of a 1960s comic-book villain and his dialogue taken from a Jehovah’s Witness leaflet; 2007’s The Black Tower presents a lineup of converts, their faces painted gold as though shimmering with illumination. Whether this is of the divine or artistic variety is a moot point. What’s caused their new way of thinking could be a stain or a pattern. It’s certainly addictive.
Building on a tradition of surreal British satire that goes back to film-makers such as Lindsay Anderson or screenwriter Dennis Potter, Thomas draws attention to the tacit systems that shape daily life, whether the body language of authority figures or the empty rhetoric of institutions. Her latest, School of Change, takes the “credit system” – and other economic or marketing jargon now used in education – and creates an Orwellian high school musical where everything comes down to a number.
It’s a black and yellow world in which schoolgirls, teachers, classrooms and even food are colour-coded like danger signs. As with Potter’s TV shows or Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, Thomas’s films have often featured characters who burst into song. Here, she ups the ante with a toe-tapping repertoire co-created with composer Leo Chadburn. Lyrics that at first sound like the product of a game of Consequences say much about a system that deems an inner life of knowledge and creativity as something quantifiable.
Yet Thomas prefers poetry to straight send-ups. In School of Change, girls sit in class with scarecrow versions of themselves and live in fear of “hard weather”, which can lob off limbs. Her films are always too strange to be directly mapped on to specific social issues. More than this, it’s our assumptions about reality itself that she brings tumbling down.
Why we like her: Thomas’s films are screened in installations that bring more than the mise en scène to 3D life. Coming face-to-face with a real-life yellow schoolgirl is a deliciously disconcerting experience.
Home-girl: To really up-end the everyday, Thomas films in locations full of personal significance, from her parents’ suburban house to her old school.
Where can I see her? At Matt’s Gallery, London, to 29 July.
For a link to this article in context go tohttp://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/jul/12/artist-of-week-jennet-thomas
PROFILE ON JENNET THOMAS IN ART MONTHLY NOVEMBER 2015 BY LAUREN VELVICK
My own statement:
I make films, performances and installations exploring the connections between my lived everyday, fantasy and ideology, experimenting with collective constructions of the meaningful. Using a collision of genres, my work can look like T.V. news, experimental film, childrens’ drama, or performance art behavior, and is frequently comic, uncanny and entertaining.
My work emerged from the anarchistic, experimental culture of London’s underground film and live art club scene in the 1990’s, where I was a co founder of the Exploding Cinema Collective. My single screen work has screened extensively in the international Film festival arena, particularly in the US and Europe and has more recently been showing in galleries the UK. Recent solo shows include: ‘THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE’, at Grundy Gallery Blackpool (and touring, 2015) ‘SCHOOL OF CHANGE’ at Matt’s Gallery 2012, ‘All Suffering SOON TO END’ at Matt’s Gallery 2010, ‘Return of the Black Tower’ at PEER in 2007, and ‘The Advice Shape’ at OUTPOST, Norwich, November 2010 My single screen work is distributed by Video Data Bank. I am currently .5 Senior Lecturer teaching on Fine Art: BA Print and Time Based media at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London. and the MFA Fine Art