Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jennifer Bartlett - Painter

In the early 1980s, while working on my fine arts degree, and for some reasons I wouldn't understand until much later in my life, I became mesmerized by the art of Jennifer Bartlett. I saw her first series of paintings, "In the Garden", featured in a printed arts magazine. Her work was strangely fascinating. The colours, the impressionistic strokes, the play of light dancing across the landscape and that mysteriously-empty fountain with the cherub statue, painted again and again from so many different angles and perspectives. What did it mean? What was she trying to tell us? My curiosity about her work surprised me. Usually, I found contemporary art pieces rather boring and obvious, as simplistic reflections of modern life. I was already experiencing modern reality first-hand. I could see it all around me. And feel it. Why would I ever want to examine a crafted substitute?

Until recently, I hadn't thought about Jennifer Bartlett's work for years. But with renewed interest (and the help of Google) I discovered that one of her recent exhibits involves painting maps. She started out as a map maker. In her work I think there are elements that hint at what I believe may be 'first principles' of perception and cognition. Fundamental clues about how we see and understand the world. Timeless.

In the words of critic Maurice Berger, Bartlett’s art “juxtaposes the raw and the cooked, examining the way the world is filtered through the human mind and is encoded into cultural conventions or sign systems.”

Jennifer Bartlett Fibonacci 1-987, 2010 enamel over silkscreen grid on baked enamel, steel plates 63" x 63" (160 cm x 160 cm), overall installed (