Jenny Nijenhuis was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1969. Nijenhuis obtained a BA Fine Art (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1993.
Following a stint in corporate marketing, Nijenhuis started and still runs her own integrated communications design agency. In 2012 she returned to her art practice working predominantly in sculpture, installation and photography.
Her many years spent in communications combined with an on-going drive to understand human identity and how this is influenced by religious, political and societal dogma, has led to her current artistic exploration. An exploration that seeks to answer questions such as: “Who am I?”; “What is freedom and does it exist?”; “How do we become caught up in the belief that we are what we are merely experiencing?”
Nijenhuis is a finalist in this year’s Sasol New Signatures art competition. In 2016 Nijenhuis initiated SA’s Dirty Laundry, an installation aimed at bringing awareness to the issue of rape in South Africa by hanging 3600 pairs of used panties on washing lines across the streets of Johannesburg. Nijenhuis co-curated her first group show at SoMa Art + Space titled The Things We Do for Love as part of this artistic intervention.
In 2015 Nijenhuis held her debut solo exhibition at Lizamore & Associates and was a PPC Imaginarium finalist. In 2014 she was a Lovell Tranyr Art Trophy finalist.
Nijenhuis has participated in various group exhibitions in South Africa and her sculptures have been bought by private collectors through galleries and directly.
In 2011 I started actively exploring the concept of identity, how this is developed through society and how we come to an understanding of “who I am”.
Our societal structure dictates the rules by which we live, what we are free to say and what is considered acceptable in terms of belief, politics, ethics and action. From birth each of us is influenced by and raised according to regional laws, group belief, and what is deemed to be acceptable moral conduct and ethical behavior. As a result, individual moral code and understanding of what is right and wrong, acceptable or not, is coloured by group mentality.
Your voice is influenced by these boundaries before you are even able to speak. In this sense free speech and free thought do not exist. We are not free, in our speech, our thinking, our religion or for that matter, anything which is governed "free" by law precisely because there are laws that govern freedom.
In addition, we carry our own personal internal concern over opinion, the reaction of others and negative repercussion.
According to Carl Jung, at the core of the human psyche there exists an unconscious aspect which consists of a personal unconscious (relating to your own life), and a collective unconscious (comprising symbols which are shared by all humanity). These symbols, or archetypes, allow humans to perceive and relate to the world in specific ways. (Rudman, 2005, pg 6)
An archetype is a collectively assumed symbol, expression, or way of behaving, a prototype upon which others are modelled. Jung proposed the existence of universal prototypes of ideas that channel experiences and emotions which result in recognisable and typical patterns of behaviour. Some recurring archetypes include: mother; hero; child; trickster; scarecrow.
At any given time, each of us is likely to be operating under at least one of the archetypal patterns of behaviour, a character carefully put on for the known behavioural outcome. When the conscious mind chooses to ignore these archetypal behaviour patterns we become caught up in the belief that we are what we are merely experiencing - this provides a skewed sense of individual identity.
In a world dominated by ego, science, material and economic excess, we have become a nation of television addicted, pill popping, self-indulgent narcissists. So cut off from our unconscious that we “experience a false sense of mastery over… nature – to the point of proclaiming ourselves as god”. (Coward, 1985, pg17)
This course of enquiry has led me to an exploration of archetypes and their innate characteristics through figurative sculptural work in attempts to expose the state of the human condition. This has resulted in many questions:
“Are we living in a programmed paradigm which has been created for us?”
“Is there more than one reality?”
“Is life simply illusory at a sensory level?”
“Are we merely caught up in archetypal ego play?”