David Jolly’s Interior Schweppes 1 is an unexpected take on the still life study. Jolly has become known for his meticulous paintings of urban and semi-urban landscapes and figure compositions on the reverse side of glass. These, and his works on paper, are derived from secondary sources, mostly his own photographs and news media. Jolly described his job on the production line at Schweppes as ‘watching soda-pop being made from start to finish, through tubes and conveyor belts’. Despite the monotony of daily factory life, and ‘no open views’ to the world, he became fascinated by the ‘patterns and routines’ in this ‘liquid sugar factory’.
Jolly was aware that the factory was due to close and after discussions with the production manager began documenting the production process. He eventually took more than 200 interior photographs which focused on the detail of this ‘jungle of steel’. After paring down these images, Jolly painted this series of five watercolours. They focus on the detail of machinery, the production lines and the surrounding factory environment.
The beauty of Jolly’s delicate watercolours is in direct contrast to his subject matter – the ‘jungle of steel’ of the Schweppes factory. In their composition, colour and definition the watercolours mirror the idiosyncrasies of the photographic process from which they evolved. Jolly’s use of colour relates to the amount of available light inside the factory when photographing his subject. The tight composition comes from his familiarity with the production line, and reflects the monotony of daily life in the factory. The sometimes blurry imagery is a consequence of the sultry environment in which the photographs were taken, where large amounts of water are used in the production process. In faithful detail Jolly focuses on the detail of machinery, the ‘visual sexuality of the glue machine’ and the patterns of the towel used to wiped down the glue from the machine. In the borders of these carefully composed works are brush marks as evidence of Jolly’s painting process; it provides an intriguing embellishment to his subject
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra