Homo Fabers Favorite Shape by Rüdiger Heise
Paintings and collages by Julian Jackson
and Objects by Bernhard Licini, Galerie Kaysser. September, 2013
Nature comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes. There is only a single shape that nature doesnt provide: the right angle. The right angle and all two- and three-dimensional formations built on it always have one initial characteristic in common: they are manmade; conceptualized and manufactured by people. The rectangle and its specialized big brothers, the square and the cube both equal-sided rectangles immediately make themselves known as genuinely manmade objects. Since they cannot be found in nature, they inherently represent the realm of culture. It shouldnt come as a surprise then that it was the rectangle or, more precisely, the concept of rectangularity that painters and sculptors turned to when they started to leave the confinements of realism and the purely representational. For its fall exhibition, the Gallery Kaysser in Ruhpolding has chosen two artists that have devoted a big part of their oeuvre to this very concept. The painter Julian Jackson lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, sculptor Bernhard Licini has his home and workroom in Switzerland. In their works, both artists persistently and extensively approach this exceptional shape, from every angle and in their individual way.
Julian Jacksons first and most fundamental choice for the rectangle can be found in the format of his paintings. Since we are so used to this particular shape in paintings, we dont immediately notice it is a conscious decision. However, as the shaped canvas paintings from the 60ies and 70ies or the oval tondos from the Renaissance period show, the rectangular frame and canvas is only one of many possible shapes. But moving away from the external shape, let us concentrate on what happens on the surface of the rectangular canvasses of Julian Jacksons new series. Here, too, rectangles appear, overlapping each other, partly covering one another. It is by this process that Julian Jackson creates the impression of a front and a back and thus of a three-dimensional space on the two-dimensional canvas. Additionally, a slight sfumato on the interior shapes blurs the transitions from one rectangle to the other, which in turn results in a curious impression of vibration. On the canvas and especially on the beholders retinae, they act and move as if separate, independent entities. Using only his painterly means, the artist manages to shed light on the rectangles individuality as well as their autonomy in his painting.
Bernhard Licinis uses various base materials for his sculptures, different quality grades of steel, aluminum and even acrylic glass. With his wall objects and free standing sculptures, the rectangle (and also the circle, which we will pay no regard to here) plays a significant role. Licini hardly ever works with only one rectangle and the art is often in their specific positioning and arrangement which allows for new positions, perspectives, permeations and overlays. Adding to the effect of this graphic arranging of the shapes is a principle that both Bernhard Licini and Julian Jackson apply in their work: the art of reduction. When the worlds diversity is reduced to one single shape in the case of both artists, the rectangle, that remaining shape becomes metonymically charged. It now stands as a pars pro toto, a signifier and representative of the differentiated whole. Reducing the artistic means limiting oneself to using only a few select colours or motifs invariably strips the artistic statement down to its most essential. There is nothing left to distract, no inflated expectations that could go awry. The painter and the sculptor they both display the creational act, professing themselves to the basic human drive to do, to create, to be Homo fabers. Their works do not appear as extraterrestrial objects fallen from space, but immediately make themselves known as products of human labor. Julian Jackson and Bernhard Licini thus demonstrate the nature of what art is or at least could be: the unfurling of artistic freedom by the means of choosing ones own restrictions.
excerpt from: A Sense of Place, Professional Artist Magazine, April-May, 2013 in conversation with Brenda Hope Zapitell
I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. My home is beside Prospect Park, allowing for contact with nature that is essential to me. Here, my wife and I have a garden with lots of flowers and a small fishpond. My studio is in downtown Brooklyn and provides the stimulation and astringent contrasts of an urban environment. I commute about 4 miles by bicycle. The ride energizes me and clears my head for a day of work.
The siren song of possibility led me to New York, and living here has been an excellent adventure. Ultimately, I was drawn to New York because it is a place that is sympathetic to the arts and humanities. It has given me the chance to see, do and experience more than I ever might have imagined.
My painting has a lot to do with light, color and an ambiguous and shifting sense of structure. New York is surrounded by water and has wonderful light and constantly changing atmospheric conditions. It is also a fascinatingly structured place physically, socially and psychologically. I have lived here many years now, and I think that the various grids have seeped into my bones, which I echo in the structure of my paintings.
I grew up in Richmond, Va., in suburban area that had tall trees and was surrounded by forest. Climbing trees, holding on, feeling the sway and experiencing the light filtering through the branches was my earliest aesthetic rush, and I think much of my work as a painter has been an effort to remember and evoke that bright feeling of joy and wonder. Meanwhile, my grandmother lived downtown in a shadowy townhouse, a place where the early paintings of my uncle, a painter who worked in New York, were displayed. Childhood visits to her house were my initiation into the mystery, allure, difficulty, and seriousness of paintings.
For a painter, touch and vision are essential. Physical memory is also crucial to the practice of painting. My own body is the environment I have known the longest, and my sense of being a conscious, seeing, moving, vertical creature on an ever-changing series of horizontal planes enhances my interest in flux and the architecture of composition.
Memory plays such a great part in cataloging experiences of all kinds that it can be found deeply woven into any individual painting. Lately, memories of particular rooms real, imagined, in paintings have been haunting me.
For many years I have loved Japanese haiku poetry in which the seasons play an evocative role. In my paintings too, the seasons are suggested by changes in color and mood. It is hard to pin them down, though. I might work in blues to cool myself off in summer or use reds and oranges to warm up in winter, but overall there does seem to be a connection. Spring and autumn are more particular and, as in haiku poems, more poignant. When the daffodils bloom, I have to paint in yellows and pale greens, and when the cherries blossom, in pink.
Julian Jackson was born in Richmond, Va. He studied painting, printmaking, photography, and performance at Massachusetts College of Art and Virginia Commonwealth University.
SELECTED REVIEWS / PRESS CLIPS
Julian Jackson, Will "O The Wisp at Kathryn Markel, January 2010
"Just opened at Kathryn Markel in Chelsea (through February 6), Julian Jackson is showing a gorgeous new group of paintings that seem to be lit from within. The show's title, Will 'O the Wisp, refers to the phenomenon of naturally occurring phosphorescence that perfectly embodies Julian's intent. Painted on panels with beveled back edges, these pieces appear to hover in front of the wall, and the smooth surfaces look as though the color is somehow invested rather than applied. Built out of layers of overlapping rectangles, the compositions are as solid as urban landscapes, but the spaces are absolutely etherial. Nuanced contrasts in value, saturation, warmth and coolness, make the color relations undulate, pulling us into a soft and constantly shifting space that is as disorienting as it is seductive. These works gracefully perform an almost impossible transformation of the material elements of painting into a pure experience of luminescence."
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Third solo exhibition of paintings by New York artist Julian Jackson at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York, NY
Jacksons exhibition, Will O The Wisp, presents a new body of work expanding the artists development on the subject of light.
In folklore involving the will o the wisp, a term used to describe the flickering light of twilight, travelers are led to unexpected places from one world to the next. In this show Julian is working with our perception of and experience with light. Where previously the artist received his inspiration from the commune of light within nature, this show speaks of light as a direct entity. Yet as the title implies, the attraction of light is anything but direct. Jacksons paintings deliver light as both a lure and an escort between the determinate and the ephemeral. With the application of layers consisting of very thin oil glazes and the careful process of brushing and softening the paint surface presents an imagery of color closely resembling an objective light source.
The illumination and focus of these beautiful paintings helps the viewer focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, one which may tempt us to cross boundaries from this world into the next. In the spirit of a new decade, Jacksons au courant body of work presents us with the embodiment of transition, one that is ready to take us to the next stage and decade."
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Joanne Mattera Art Blog
Atmospheric, January 2010
"Theres a lot of atmosphere in Chelsea right now. Not air, which is a given, but ethereal presence. Light and space.
At Kathryn Markel on 20th Street, there's Will 'O the Wisp, a show of paintings by Julian Jackson so softly diffuse and radiant they seem to be lit from within..."
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catalog essay for The Elements, September, 2007
Lilly Wei is a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic who writes regularly for Art in America and is a contributing editor at ARTnews and Art Asia Pacific.
Light, He Says, Is the Subject
Julian Jacksons new abstractions from the series the Elements are not so unlike the paintings that came before. They have the same refined, sensitive touch that is almost more felt than visible, the same inflected, slightly unfocused luminosity, a glow both natural and cinematic that suggests more idyllic times and places. That said, the new paintings have also changed radically, if radical is not too abrupt a word for work that is so mulled over, so carefully conceived and executed. One point of departure is that they are no longer abstracted architectural interiors based on a grid but skyscapes or pastorals instead, mediated through the history of art, channeling the spirit of Tiepolo and Constable, say, especially in their respective depictions of the celestial. Jackson has also brightened his palette considerably, taking as his main subjects light (as always) and cosmic spaces filled with hovering, softly blurred globes of elusive color. The scale, accordingly, has expanded. Jackson said that they were a return, of sorts, to paintings he had made ten years ago for his father, soon after he died. At the time, he wanted to paint images of the night sky, since Jackson had always thought of his father as a special star. These canvases, however, are not about night. Instead, they are extraordinarily buoyant, celebratory even, like champagne, but held together by an understated structure that lends ballast and formal tension. The rich colors layered between more nuanced shades, the stream and sensation of billowing clouds (you suspect that if you blew on them they would shift direction) are anchored by Jacksons meticulousif intuitiveplacement of various-sized, variously shaped and colored globes, some opaque, others diaphanous but all radiant. They constitute the path he wants your eye to travel.
Ryoanji, titled after the famous Japanese temple, is emblematic of Jacksons profound and longstanding interest in Asian art. Its format is an extended horizontal rectangle, the field a lovely, light-shimmered, barely-there green. A bundled shape of wine and other softened blue-reds occupies the left side and seems to be irresistibly drawn to a gorgeous poppy-red bloom with an unexpected blue center on the right, a compositional trope that occurs in other paintings as shapes attract each other. But it is the color of the ground that is the most alluring, like the light under a leaf or the pale froth of beaten tea, then delicately warmed, cooled and bound with a creaminess that is utterly seductive. Arc, while smaller than Ryoanji, has a similar rectangular format and is a yellow-orange-green filtered through other colors. It features a uneven bridge of golden orange ovals that traverses the painting. Solar is bolder, sultry, suffused with golds, reds, violets, always touched by some shade of blue here or there, some greens and suggests heat, high summer (as do most of these paintings; Jackson says you can pretty much tell what season of the year he has made a painting in) while Flare is also seductively warm, balanced by cools, consisting of many gradations and shades of oranges, corals, reds, with one red that is particular arresting, glowing with jeweled clarity. Moment, on the other hand, looks like pure sky, only more perfect, more pink, blue and white, full of racing, flirtatious rococo clouds and while there are no putti visible, it seems their kind of habitat. As is evident, Jackson believes that sky is one of the most beautiful things that exist.
As the result of expert, elegant crafting and close observation of phenomena, the formal pleasures of these pitch-perfect paintings are many: the complex interplay of color and light, the mutable relationship of the shapes that seem to crowd and disperse, gently pushing and pulling against each other, the rhythms, the ambiguous, indeterminate space. But Jackson also prefers to see them in more experiential ways, as the outcome of personal events in his life, as a means to understand the natural world. He is not a theorist and he would like to seize something from the flux of life, to link his art with primal, current experience. He also thinks of painting as a place to enter as one might a forest and to revisit often as one would a favorite mountain, tree, garden, or building.
These paintings, he said, in a recent studio visit, are the ongoing ripple effect of an epiphany he experienced several years ago at an artists residency. He had spent a month there, mostly among the trees, looking at the light filtering through the leaves. It helped him see other possibilities, other directions for his work, a quiet shift that still inspires him, that still refreshes his practice. It also resurrected memories of childhood summers. During those summers, he spent a lot of time in trees, gazing upward, the hazy, spangled light falling down on him through the leaves, like a blessing."
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Art critic for the New York Observer, April, 2005
"I became acquainted with Jacksons paintings about five years ago. There continues to be much to admire in his meticulously constructed abstractions. Jackson's paintings of gently shifting fields of luminous color make plain a heartfelt debt to the tradition of modernist abstraction. Yet their scope of reference, of pictorial influence and aesthetic commonality, encompasses the history of art. The works jewel-like surfaces recall Byzantine icons as his crisp ringing tones bring to mind the lucid coloration of 15th century Italian painting. Jacksons fascination with the particularities of light references the nuanced landscapes of the American Luminist painter John Frederick Kensett. And the hard won equilibrium summons a spiritual ambiance not dissimilar to that found in Chinese landscape painting.
The tactile sensitivity Jackson brings to surface, as well as his warm and glowing pallete are matched by few contemporary painters. The seriousness of his pursuit will be apparent to even the most cursory observer of culture. Jackson is committed to an art that aspires to beauty, embraces sensuality, and embodies metaphor. He knows that a painting is much more than a mere physical fact; that it is, in fact, a conduit for, as well as an encapsulation of, experience."
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Excerpted from an interview with Joe Walantini
Published by Abstract Art Online April 2005
Joe Walantini: We are in a moment of pluralism in the art world. But I like that these other mediums and approaches havent gone away. There is conceptual art, installations, photography and video, and yet there is room for painting too.
Julian Jackson: Yes, and I find that work equally interesting, but having been a painter for over twenty years now, Im very committed to the activity of painting and its continuing history. I value the fact that as with writing, music, or poetry, you start with nothing and then from your own sensibility you bring something to the piece youre working on. That is a real challenge I think.
JW: Do you think thats truer of abstract painting?
JJ: Its a different relationship to narrative, for me the narrative is my own experience and my sense of shared human experience; of space, of color, of atmospheric light, you know, all the elements that surround us on a daily basis. Those are the things that excite me, and the importance of simply being conscious. For instance, Im a bird watcher and I almost never feel more conscious than when out looking for birds. You go into the woods, scan the treetops, and maybe youll see a flicker of bright life. Its analogous to painting I think.
JW: Yes, it does make sense.
JJ: Well, you work along, making marks, shifting colors and forms, and suddenly, the light comes in.
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Beth E. Wilson
Excerpted from a review of the exhibition, Optical Simulations; The American Abstract Artists at the Yellow Bird Space, Newburgh, New York
Published in Cronogram, October, 2005
While much of the work in this show depends largely upon disinterested, purely visual/aesthetic criteria for its comprehension, there are a few works that push the envelope toward referential if not representational meaning. For instance, in Julian Jacksons Bills July, a field of softened, muted squares and rectangles in a range of shades of light yellow to yellow orange, play Hans Hoffmans game of push-pull with a beautiful sense of shimmering summer light and luminosity.
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Mark Daniel Cohen
Excerpted from the catalogue essay for the exhibition Optical Simulations; The American Abstract Artists published by the Yellow Bird Space, Newburgh, New York, September, 2005
For abstraction is the thinking brain of visual art, the calculating and comprehending mind of the creatively sensuous response. To abstract in art is of a piece with abstracting in any field of intellectual endeavor it is to search for and devise first principles, to locate the pristine idea behind the complexity of surface facts, to tease essential thoughts from down to earth concerns. Yet, abstraction in visual art is not an intellectual purity conveyed by painterly means. Rather, it is the purity of an intelligized sensuality, an intellectuality of the senses, as if sensuality itself were an intellectual substance and the intellect a lush presence as if the idea were a luxury, a languorous repose, a sensuous darkling and a jolting vivification.
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Excerpted from a review for the exhibition, Nature Abstracted at the Painting Center, New York City
Published in the New York Sun, December 9, 2004
In the exhibition the natural world is invoked rhetorically but largely abandoned on canvas. Emphasis is on the thing usually least helpful in the quest for form: that old deceiver, the artists inner world. No matter. Julian Jacksons moody color and silken surfaces, like reflecting pools lit from within, left me wanting to see more.
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