This is Jonathan Forrest’s 4th solo exhibition at the gallery. “Colour Chorus” features a luminous new suite of abstracts painted over the Spring and Summer months. A riot of colour, Forrest combines both his signature bands of colour with saturated washes that bleed and seep creating veil like textures.
Coming of age as a painter in Saskatoon in the 1980s had a huge impact on Jonathan Forrest’s development as an artist. Modernism and Prairie Abstraction was firmly rooted in Saskatoon, where there was an emphasis on abstraction that was open, thin, clear and flat, self-referential with no illusions to space or subject. These new paintings in “Colour Chorus” follow these strict parameters and supercharge us with vibrant colour.
For the past number of years Forrest has confined his practice to a vertical format. Halfway through this body of work, however, Forrest attended a Saskatoon residency where he decided to “break the vertical rule” and challenged himself to re-think the format. The switch from vertical to horizontal opened something new and different for Forrest. The backgrounds are looser, sponged on with a slight variation in tone, while the thin veil like bands of colour have a slight blur of edge, a stain that seeps and washes.
Through the process of creation, Forrest began thinking more and more about music, both in the physical structure of the composition and with each careful colour. The colour sequences culminate in a colour keyboard, where the right hand responds to the left hand, combining colours and moods with high notes in value or hue intensity.
“The paintings in my exhibition “Colour Chorus” come from two periods of recent work. The first group includes all the vertical pieces that were painted in the early Spring of 2022. They were made by starting with intense saturated coloured backgrounds that were then set off by building blocks of paint and colour. In the higher key pieces the colour is what I’d call impact colour with each block hitting you full force. The deeper blue pieces take on a very particular light – the sort of light you get on an evening walk after the suns goes down where everything glows blue, and any whites light up.
By early Summer I felt the need to change, and I quickly went into an experimental phase where I dismantled everything, questioned everything, and tried many approaches, techniques and formats. This is what I do from time to time and it’s a very familiar but challenging part of my painting process. The Spring work had an ease to it, but the early Summer’s experimentation was closer to an all-out boot camp – a “back to basics” training. Rewarding in the end but not pleasant to go through.
Then, as often happens, something clicks, and a door is opened, and new possibilities emerge. Somehow you can’t have the ease without the struggle, but when the ease happens it’s a wonderful time in the studio, and this certainly happened with this last group of horizontal pieces made in the late Summer and early Fall. The horizontal format somehow opened a different colour range for me with the composition taking a backseat to the colour – or rather composing with colour became the primary impetus.
The colours, through the horizontal rectangles, began jumping from bar to bar, encouraged by the horizontal “split” of the composition. It’s like a colour keyboard moving up and down the scales with both hands playing the keys. And there seems to be an orchestral wave of colour that moves the eye around the canvas; a musical colour undulation, culminating in a high note either in value or hue intensity.
Each painting seems to have its own very personal colour range that could be associated with time of day, different seasons, or even a mood. How can a colour have a personality? A happy sunshine yellow. A mysterious evening blue. You can only take this so far but there’s something there to consider.”
Jonathan Forrest, October 2022
Jonathan Forrest is an abstract painter who divides his studio time between Vancouver Island and small town Saskatchewan, Canada. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and immigrated with his family to Canada in 1977.
Forrest studied at the University of Saskatchewan receiving his BFA in 1983 and his MFA in 1991. Jonathan has participated in several artists’ workshops including The Emma Lake Artists’ Workshop (1985, 1988, 1991, 2001, 2003 and 2005), The “Saskatchewan Invitational artists’ workshop”, Emma Lake (2000), and Triangle Artists’ Workshop, Brooklyn, NY (2002).
His work has been shown in Western Canada in museums including the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, The Edmonton Art Gallery and The Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina. In 2021, the Art Gallery of Swift Current organized a survey exhibition, which followed the trajectory of Jonathan Forrest’s painting practice from 2002 to 2019.
Public collections include the Canada Council / Art Bank, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Edmonton Art Gallery, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw Art Museum, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan Arts Board, University of Lethbridge and the University of Saskatchewan.