Jamie Evrard: Various and Sundry Tales

In this new artist blog piece, Vancouver based artist Jamie Evrard muses on the various subjects comprising her upcoming exhibition In Full Bloom. Evrard’s pensive prose beautifully mirrors this dreamlike and atmospheric collection of works and offers an intriguing description of her artistic motivations and process. In Full Bloom opens on September 9 and runs through September 23, 2023.

The artist in her studio.

During Covid I amused myself by joining a group of artists who sent each other daily drawings of objects we had around the house. My pictures soon turned into a book about two ceramic mice, Moi Aussi and Royal Albert, who lived in teacups and adventured around my house and garden thinking this area was plenty big, and possibly even the whole world. Every day when I went up to my study, painted a watercolour, and wrote text to accompany it, I marvelled that I never ran out of ideas and the mice’s adventures continued seemingly without end. Painting for my show In Full Bloom struck me as a similar experience, except that I was the one having the adventures and each painting represented one of them.

Many people think an artist gets an idea for a painting and then simply paints what they see in their mind’s eye, but for me this could not be further from the truth. It is the uncertainty of the painting process, the dialogue with the work itself, and the unexpected twists and turns of creation that makes the act of painting compelling. A painting starts with my seeing something that intrigues me in a way I need to understand and communicate - walls of live orchids I saw six years ago decorating the walls of the flagship Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue from floor to ceiling; four dresses a gardener made herself and then hung over her plot of leeks, peonies, and lettuce plants to weather and fade away; the incredibly profligate annual delphinium patch at Van Dusen Garden. Or even just the shape of a single flower, possibly one I have already painted before but need to explore again in a new way.

Jamie Evrard's studio and a view of Star-Scattered Garden, oil on canvas, 62 x 62 inches in progress.

The process is strange. For instance, I started a delphinium painting with a large, transparent patch of Ultramarine Blue. I fell in love with that expanse of sheer blue gorgeousness, which made it hard to go on as I was afraid of ruining the thing. But soon the story became much more complicated - and what about the rest of the picture, how could it work with that powerful blue? As I went on, the blue became too deep and needed to be broken up and given highlights. The painting revealed itself to me in morphing stages as I worked to harmonize all of its parts.

In the white dress paintings, I was trying to figure out what was so mysterious and beautiful about those long garments hanging outside, where you’d least expect them. Some of the mystery of this subject matter turned out to involve a visual explanation of what the sunlight did to the white cloth, highlighting folds or coming through the fabric itself, making magic. Did anyone ever wear those dresses? They speak to me of absence, and the mystery only deepened as I worked on the quality of light.

Jamie Evrard, White Dresses - Study. Oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches.

And the orchid paintings! The photos of them sat in my computer for years as I tried to figure out what was it about them that fascinated me. It certainly wasn’t the colour: white on black basically. Finally, I just had to paint them to find out. As I worked, I discovered that it was the shapes of the petals repeating themselves and falling through space that I loved, and they led me close to abstraction. Some of these paintings went completely haywire and kept metamorphosing, leading me on a wild goose chase until I finally had to discard them hoping at least that I had learned something; others, like the ones in this new show, successfully capture the shapes and energy that I was first drawn to years ago.

Jamie Evrard, Orchid Study - White Flowers. Watercolour on paper, 24.5 x 24 inches.

Very occasionally, the stories the canvases tell are short - I paint them in a few days as they are pretty much what I thought they were, and this is very pleasant indeed.

And sometimes, seeking some sort of revenge, I paint on top of a previously abandoned work, revealing some of the under layers in dark transparent shades. When this works it is so much fun to change direction midstream. For this show I painted a favourite peony composition on top of two different orchid paintings just to see what those orchids would tell those peonies.

I paint to figure out exactly what I see in something that intrigues me and then communicate that to the viewer, and to find out how the story I’m creating will end.

– Jamie Evrard 2023

The artist in her studio.

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