July 28 – September 9, 2023
The Main Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday July 28th, 7 -10 pm
Collapse (Into Now) is an exhibition of recent paintings by Julian Forrest that explores themes of disconnectedness, alienation, the elusive nature of memory, and a general sense of being under siege while finding refuge in strange quarters.
Having spent his formative years as a student of (initially) Modernist and (later) Post-Modernist art instructors, Forrest is ever aware of a tension in his practice that comes from a desire to respond to the demands of both factions: form, colour, surface and the nature of paint on the one hand; and the pull towards subject matter, narrative, irony/absurdity, pastiche, collage, and the need to dismantle and cannibalize representational painting on the other.
Forrest’s approach to narrative is often triggered by his recent readings (classic and contemporary literature). Like Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, whose compressed short stories often influence his work, Forrest moves freely between fact and fiction, representation and abstraction. Storytelling for him is about recollecting and reconfiguring elements in order to arrive at an enigmatic, (re)imagined version of reality, while remaining attentive in his practice to the needs of painting itself. His work often includes archetypical depictions of men, recurring characters (like the brown bear, seen in his work since 2010), fire and other discomforting moments in otherwise utopian settings. In a sense, Forrest is trying to capture that feeling of anxiety or apprehension that continues to pervade North American culture this century – particularly now, in light of our new sense of place/space since 2020.
Most recently, Forrest has been collecting and transforming images of important places from his past, such as lakeshores in Ontario and motels in Québec, imbuing them with a sense of mystery or anxiety.
Originally from Montréal, Québec , Julian Forrest now lives in Edmonton where he is an artist and Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus. He received his BFA from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick and his MFA from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. His work was included in the 2007 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art: Utopia and Disaster, is held in several public collections (including the Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ permanent collection) and has won several accolades including three Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Awards and the 2014 Eldon & Anne Foote Edmonton Visual Arts Prize.
In June, Forrest flew to Svalbard (Norway) to join researchers and artists aboard a traditionally rigged Barquentine that sailed to the North Pole as part of the 2023 Arctic Circle Residency. While there, Forrest explored the relationship between our internal and external landscapes and brought the experience of being in remote regions of the far North back to his studio here at Harcourt House in Edmonton.
Top Image: Moonbeam II (detail), 2022; oil on board
Photo courtesy of the artist