Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jennifer Bartlett - Painter

In the early 1980s, while working on my fine arts degree, and for some deep reasons I didn't yet fully understand, 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. What did it mean? My feelings of curiosity surprised me. I usually found contemporary art pieces rather obvious and boring, crude and insufficient reflections of modern life. After all, I was already living it, this modern reality. I could see it all around me. And feel it. Why would I want to look at a crafted substitute for my authentic reality?

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