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Gilbert Bouchard, "Rural immersion colours Saskatoon artist`s work", Edmonton Journal - "What`s On", June 6, 2008

 

Jonathan Forrest is having some double-entendre fun with the title of his new painting show at the Peter Robertson Gallery.

Off the Grid refers both to his desire to riff off precise geometric forms and to the impact of his new studio’s remote geographic reality.

“A year-and-a-half ago, I bought this old church an hour outside of the city. It’s in the middle of nowhere,” says the Saskatoon painter.

“Driving to and from the city to the studio has left this urban guy reconsidering nature and the changes that you see from season to season.”

Forrest says the extensive exposure to rural Saskatchewan has had the most impact on his choice of colour in his newest paintings. Instead of the bright primary colours we saw in his last Peter Robertson Gallery show, these new paintings boast more subtle, natural earth-tones.

“It’s no surprise, really, that after being immersed in these colours almost daily that they would play out in the work. You always have these influences in and out of your studio that play on what you are doing. Whatever I see, even if it is only out of the corner of my eye, sooner or later makes its way into the paintings.”

“There was also this group of paintings I did while at Emma Lake last summer that made me realize I needed a change. Working up there in that bright light made me appreciate the nuances of subtle colours more.”

The other shift his work betrays is his desire to create more textured surfaces in the backgrounds of his medium- and large-scale paintings.

“The different textures I’m using in the background have emerged in the past six months. It’s all about me being dedicated to playing with a very narrow set of rules in the paintings that I make, but trying new things, slight variations that become very big deals.

“As for these new rougher surfaces, a few of these textures just happened, and liking the effect, I started reworking the surfaces.”

Forrest says a big part of his artistic exploration is his love of layering “colour on top of colour” to create different plains that he carefully delineates by taping off areas as he paints. “This allows me to create different illusionary spaces that I can play off each other.”

With these most recent works, the painter is specifically breaking up these roughly textured background areas with extra-thick square, rectangular and triangle shapes. In all his geometric-influenced work, the painter loves the built-in tension between the inherently flawed handmade reality of a painting and the platonic perfection of geometric forms.

“It used to be more loosey-goosey with the work, now I’m tightening up the process and taping everything off.”