In the ODD Gallery: Julian Forrest

February 24 – April 1, 2023
Opening Reception: Friday, February 24th, 6 – 8pm

Artist statement

A studio is like a bubble or a cave in that, if you want, you can stay hidden away from the world for days and weeks, even months on end.  I have spent a lot of time holed up in my studio over the last couple of years – sitting in there, painting and drawing and imagining life outside its walls.  I started painting bunkers, lunar landers, suburban bungalows, and other “refuges” that I had read about in books or watched in movies as a child in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Quite a few of the shelters in these paintings are on fire.  I like the the idea of something slightly disquieting in an otherwise quiet life, like the halcyon days of my youth where I often found myself taking refuge in strange quarters.

Of course it is impossible to recapture the potency and novelty of those experiences.  Looking backward is an exercise in self-deception.  The complex and dynamic nature of memory ensures that our relationship with time and place has been distorted by age and nostalgia.  These paintings reflect a sense of disorientation and longing for a time that can never be recaptured.

My friend and colleague, novelist Marina Endicott, often begins writing by looking at pictures.  She pours through found photos, which inevitably trigger her imaginative process.  I do the opposite and start hunting for images after being triggered by something I’ve read.  Like Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, whose compressed short stories continue to influence my work, I move freely between fact and fiction, representation and abstraction. Storytelling for me is about recollecting and reconfiguring elements in order to arrive at an enigmatic, (re)imagined version of reality, while remaining attentive in my practice to the needs of Painting itself.

Having spent my formative years as a student of (initially) Modernist and (later) postmodernist instructors, I am constantly aware of a tension in my work that comes from a desire to, on one hand, respond to the demands of form, colour, surface and the nature of paint, while on the other hand feeling the pull towards subject matter, narrative, irony/absurdity, pastiche, collage, and the need to dismantle and cannibalize representational painting. 

Looking at fire through this lens (a recurring subject in this work), the Modernist in me sees it as a blooming flower or ball of bright colour; the Postmodernist sees it as a narrative motif, a beacon or a signal for anyone out there looking for signs of life.  The video for David Bowie’s Space Oddity was released in 1972, the year I was born. I can hear it now: it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.

Julian Forrest
February 2023

Image: Julian Forrest, Yellow Sky, Oil on canvas, 48×48 inches, 2021