Vancouver painter Jenn Williamson is showing her lanscape and abstract work at the MAC until April 14. (Painting cropped for space) — Submitted by Jenn Williamson

New Mexico retreat marks a change in artist’s abstract work

Parksville exhibit showcases Vancouver painter Jenn Williamson until April 14

A new exhibit at the MAC shows the beginning of a change in abstract artist Jenn Williamson’s highly intuitive work.

The Vancouver-based artist said a recent retreat to New Mexico has helped her to expand her ability to express herself freely in completely abstract work.

An artist known for creating both dreamlike landscapes created without reference, and abstract pieces without a firm grounding in reality, Williamson said her trip to New Mexico in September has had a profound impact.

After attending a seven-day retreat with an abstract painter, Williamson said, “I selected this workshop because I really have always been very moved by abstract painting, and it felt like I was being almost pulled into exploring it further as my art career has developed over the years.”

Wanting to let go of her tendency towards her abstract landscape work (which she had focused on almost exclusively for the last three years), Williamson said, “I really found my mark in just my ability to express myself very freely and intuitively.

“Even using a liner brush to just make marks on a painting, even painting with my hands with gloves on, starting a new painting just with that. I just followed my muse, and I was really excited by what happened.”

Williamson’s exhibit at the MAC (The McMillan Arts Centre at 133 McMillan St.) will give an idea of where her art focus has been and where it’s going.

Made up of newer work from the past couple years (most in acrylic with some in cold wax and oil), the exhibit will feature many paintings from her landscape work — moody skies, soft pastures, marshlands in fog.

But some of the fully abstract pieces in the exhibit will show the influence of her New Mexico workshop.

And there is much more to come from that retreat, she said.

“I have a new body of work that I haven’t shown,” said Williamson. “It’s not part of this show, either. But it is sort of a very whimsical series that began for me in New Mexico and I’m excited to continue exploring over the next while.”

Fine art painting itself was a new direction for Williamson 12 years ago.

A furniture builder with a woodworking studio prior to that, she focused on decorative pieces, finishing furniture with waxes and milk paints. She would also paint and decorate walls for wine cellars and restaurants, but found that fine art painting was the best way to allow herself to concentrate as much as she wanted.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was like I had taken something that I was doing on a large scale, and brought it down to a scale that actually deserved the attention that I give to every single square inch of every painting.

“Prior to that, doing walls and furniture and everything else, I would always spend way too long for what a wall justifies.”

After selling her first painting and generating positive feedback, Williamson said, she’s continued down this path ever since.

“It was like, ‘Oh, wow, here, this is where it’s at for me,’ and I’ve never turned back, and I know I never will.”

Williamson’s exhibit continues at the MAC until April 14.

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