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“Keep on Keeping On” is our third solo exhibition for Jonathan Forrest. Since our first exhibition in 2009, we have watched Forrest develop and evolve as an abstract painter, constantly challenging himself to push his abstraction to a new level. We are extremely proud to exhibit these new paintings as they show a new intuitiveness and maturity. They are both an homage to the history of abstract art and to Forrest’s ability to respond to what the painting needs rather that what he wants it to be.
Coming of age as a painter in Saskatoon in the 1980s had a huge impact on Forrest’s development as an artist. He grew up under the influence of Robert Christie at the University of Saskatoon and colour field painter William Perehudoff. Modernism and Prairie Abstraction was firmly rooted in Saskatoon, starting with the influence of the Regina Five in the 1960s, the Emma Lake Workshops and the legacy of American art critic Clement Greenberg at those workshops. There was an emphasis on abstraction that was open, thin, clear and flat, self-referential with no illusions to space or subject. It is within these strict parameters that Forrest has dedicated his entire artistic practice.
The paintings included in our exhibition follow Forrest’s unique technique of pulling and scraping thin layers of paint across a canvas, and repeating the process until something emerges. He reacts to each stage, intuitively responding to what is happening with the colours, shapes and textures. There is a collage-like feeling to the paintings, but also a sense of discovery and play. Forrest says painting the paintings “involve accepting the unknown, accepting failure, and having faith in the knowledge that with perseverance, work, and a sustained deep connection, the effort will pay off. A responsive approach to the specific evolution of each painting.”
These paintings, for the first time, combine luminous thin layers with chunks of solid colour, ridges, edges and licks of paint that skip, creating a luscious painterly experience. Each detail gives the painting a personality and character and remind us of sunsets, sunrises and moody grey skies. Though the paintings do not reference a specific narrative, Forrest comments:
“Describing my painting in terms of process can offer a glimpse of what I physically do in the studio on a day to day basis. But there are other sides to painting equally as important. One aspect I enjoy is how a regular painting practice incorporates, almost like a diary, the minutiae of random daily life. As I have gotten older I have welcomed this ephemeral day to day wellspring. Going for walks, seeing the churning ocean, a pattern on the sidewalk, the shape of a house chimney, the greyness of a November sea, vibrant sunset colours, the afternoon light. Even in my quiet, removed island life there’s no shortage of visual nudges that somehow become embedded in the paintings.”
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. He 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. He has an upcoming survey exhibition at the Art Gallery of Swift Current in 2021.
Jonathan Forrest’s work is in countless private and public collections including the Canada Council Art Bank, Glenbow, Mendel Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Alberta, BMO and TD Bank.