Jennifer Long captures glimpses of life in wintery Paris and Venice on canvas
The light is softer, the skies are overcast, and the trees are bare in Sojourner, Jennifer Long’s 2009 solo exhibition of new works.
This latest collection of 40 oils predominantly portrays Paris and Venice in the depths of winter, in subtle contrast to past exhibitions where the Brisbane artist’s depiction of Europe has been of spring and summer.
“It was quite cold and the colours seemed to be different,” said Jennifer, describing her most recent journey abroad, travelling with her husband and two daughters in January to the UK, France and Italy.
“I hadn’t focused on winter before. There was a lovely light - not as sharp as in summer.
“Overcast skies were broken by beautiful cerulean blue skies. The shadows were quite distinct and in Venice the terracotta colours showed up against the water and the brilliant winter sky.”
“And I felt Paris reflected a softer palette of grey and beige against which bright colour stood out in sharp relief.”
Jennifer’s winter scenes are quiet, reflective works that exude a sense of stillness. Often there’s a human presence, perhaps a lone figure, and suggestions of something unseen, undiscovered, or a story yet to be told.
The artist’s ongoing love of detail, colour and her fascination for sculptural and patterned forms, the flowing curves of metalwork and the textured surfaces of ancient walls, continues to be a feature in her latest paintings.
But in painting for this exhibition, Jennifer says she has changed course slightly, away from just depicting a detailed scene, to thinking about the figure moving through space.
“People who have a slight connection with the scene – that intrigues me,” said Jennifer, referring also to the name she has chosen for her exhibition – Sojourner.
“We weren’t there long – we were just passing through – and I wanted to capture that temporary feel and the very temporary relationship with the subject matter,” explained Jennifer.
“In passing, you get a brief glimpse into the life of these cities - through doorways and windows, along paths and under bridges, and it makes an impression.”
Jennifer has focused on this perspective of ‘passing through’ a scene. The experience of the artist in different places; the depiction of people who briefly pass across the artist’s line of vision as they go about their activities, and the viewer’s temporary engagement with what the artist has seen.
“This is what catches my imagination – a glimpse of life that I can relate to, but it’s ever so brief.”
Jennifer says viewers of her exhibition are taken to another place and time to encounter something they wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to see and experience.
In Paris she visited the Montmartre and the Marais, various parks and squares including Tuileries and Place des Vosges, strolled along the Promenade des Plantes, and several of Jennifer’s works include the chateau and its grounds at Versailles, outside the French capital.
During her weeklong sojourn in Venice there were a few places Jennifer wanted to see - St Mark’s Square, Murano, and she found the statue, Tobias and the Angel, in one of the Venetian churches she visited.
“We wended our way across bridges and along canals, crossed the Rialto Bridge several times and wandered along The Zattere,” said Jennifer, taking note of the city’s commerce, building facades and the colour along the way.
“I loved the aged patina of the surfaces - the brilliant ochres and Venetian reds of the walls. Sometimes the water was so blue, reflecting the sky, or so green, in the shade.
“I found Venice to be a very exciting little city with a Renaissance/Mediaeval feel in the detail. And its old crafts - like leather, glass and paper making – and mask wearing, effect a slight darkness to the light.”
This undercurrent of a hidden world, accentuated by the narrow streets that twist and turn, and curio shops that reveal all manner of strange and fantastic objects, caught Jennifer’s imagination.
She was drawn to paint these shopfronts and there’s a selection of them among her latest collection.
SOJOURNER EXHIBITION DETAILS:
Graydon Gallery, 29 Merthyr Road, New Farm
13 – 25 October 2009
Opening night: Friday, 16 October (6 – 8pm)
Gallery hours during exhibition: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 6pm