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Gilbert Bouchard, "Abstractionist`s work looks to the future, not the past", Edmonton Journal, The Visual Arts, June 23, 2006

 

Don’t be fooled by Jonathan’s fascination with highly ordered geometric forms and calculated grids.

He’s as much a fan of painterly chaos and spontaneity as he is of artistic structure and regular forms. Forrest has a large showing of new brightly coloured canvases boasting diverse arrays of discrete and overlapping rectangles on display at the Vanderleelie Gallery.

“I love that contrast between structure and chaos; it’s how I’m made,” says the Saskatoon painter.

“Basing work on structure like I do gives you the freedom to play and follow your intuition. My paintings have that containment; the taped-off regular edges and regular vertical and horizontal structures allow me to be intuitive in how I use my colour and make my paint, as well as how I’m responding to the painting as it is developing.”

Forrest starts all his canvases the same way, intuitively working layer upon layer of background colour with a metal trowel purchased from a local hardware store.

“I have a big interest in personalizing that paint surface, working and building up the ground so that there is a real character to it,” he says, describing his process as the “journey of the painting.”

“I never have a master plan in mind when I start a piece. I decide how I’m going to go after I lay down the background colour, often with that colour acting as a trigger for how the painting is going to do.

“My most interesting paintings are the ones that I don’t know exactly how they work and totally function. I like being …on the edge where you’re not always sure of what you have.”

Colour is central to his work process. “I like all aspects of colour. Even the heavy black, grey and ochre paintings I make are colour experiences. The range of colour you see in any series reflects the range of my interests.”

Forrest is also fond of contrasting the thickness of various layers of paint pigment on his canvases, juxtaposing thinly scraped or washed patches of colour with thick, monochromatic rectangles that he creates using plexiglass moulds. These latter shapes can consist of pigment that’s two-thirds of a centimeter thick.

“I like my paintings to be seen in natural and changing light because this raking light brings out the thick relief aspects of the paint as well as the colour reality. Different light allows different personalities to come forward.”

While he takes much inspiration from early modernist, geometric and abstract painters, Forrest is concerned that this interest in historical forms translates into totally contemporary work.

“Doing my BFA studies in Saskatoon in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, I was influenced by modernist abstract expressionist artists from the ‘50s to the ‘70s and am aware that I don’t want to regurgitate known solutions, known ways of painting.

“In many ways, that is the challenge of abstraction today –creating painting that is about looking forward and not to the past.