In 2012 the Fine Art Society Contemporary held the first UK solo exhibition for Alan Jones, widely considered to be producing some of the most intelligent and provocative work on the theme of colonial identity in Australia today.
Without moral judgment or selective editing, Alan Jones embraces the details of his own genealogy, delving into the narratives of his ancestors and presenting the resulting ideas and themes in a thoroughly contemporary and compelling way. Jones elegantly binds the thread of his own heritage throughout his painting, sculpture, installation and collage. In doing so he endeavors to communicate to the viewer the intricacies of human connections, even across continents and centuries.
Born in Sydney, Jones has long been interested in Australia’s colonial history and the journey of the First Fleet ‐ the initial arrival of 717 British convicts that formed the beginnings of modern day Australia. This historical landmark also marked a dramatic turning point in Jones’ own heritage. His ancestor, Robert Forrester was convicted of theft in London in 1783 and was destined for New South Wales on board the First Fleet. The lives of Robert Forrester and his common law wife Isabella Ramsey have been the genesis for several of Jones’ solo exhibitions in Australia, uncovering the early days of the convicts and English colonial rule.
In 2012, the artist took the opportunity to delve deeper into his ancestry, tracing his convict ancestors to their origins in North England. Whilst under taking a 6 month residency at The Ropewalk Studios in North Lincolnshire, Jones collected and produced imagery that related to personal landmarks in his ancestors’ lives.
“Upon arriving to the harsh environment of New South Wales, both Robert and Isabella would have reflected back on their former lives in England. Their memories of ‘The Mother Land’ may have been fond or far from it. It is impossible to know. I have tried to take a contemporary approach to documenting some of the places that would most likely have held familiar memories for them. Actually being located in the UK was essential for gathering the images and the aesthetic that underpins this body of work.”
Travelling hundreds of miles to gather research material ‐ taking the artist from Kirk Andrews upon Esk, to St Giles in the Fields Church in Central London, to Carlisle Assizes – Jones’ studies formed the groundwork for a new body of work that not only documents an earlier chapter of his family’s heritage, but also draws attention to broader social and cultural issues. Jones is at once incredibly specific and fastidious with the truth, and also simultaneously gifted at drawing wider conclusions and highlighting collective trends and experiences.