Sam Jinks on the inseparability of life and death


With his usual round of international exhibitions cancelled and postponed during pandemic lockdowns, Sam Jinks found himself in a reflective place as he soldiered on with his work, uninterrupted at his Melbourne studio. This unforeseen period, though, was tempered by grief: some deaths among family and friends couldn’t help but affect his practice, leading to reflections on destiny and instability in his new exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf.

“That time was challenging, and it was a great opportunity to start afresh,” Jinks says. “In a sense, the new show is reflecting on what happened. This is very much about losing people and having new life come into the world. It is a bit more focussed. It is not a young man’s work, but an older person’s work.”

Well-known for figurative, lifelike pieces whose hyper-real detail instils an uncanny sense of both human form and presence, Jinks has had enormous success abroad—so being contained in Melbourne encouraged him to explore opportunities closer to home. “I haven’t shown in Australia for a long time, and COVID was an awakening in that respect,” he says. “It was time to get a bit more local.”

The results are Hope in the Wilderness, which is imbued with the artists mood in a time of uncertainty, filled with objects haunted by decay and death, but bolstered by the possibility of renewal—a see-saw no doubt many of us find ourselves within. Jinks renders this visually through sculptures of snails finding nourishment within a rabbit’s skull; a new-born baby, fresh from the womb, is held by a deceased figure. It is life and death together, in motion.

At the centre of the darkened gallery space, is a figure with golden, shimmering wings, her ethereal reflection gleaming in a black pool of water below. It’s an ancient goddess representing our prevailing need for connection, while casting a reassuring glow over the accompanying works.

Hope in the Wilderness
Sam Jinks

Sullivan+Strumpf, Melbourne
18 February – 11 March

Preview Words by Andrew Stephens