Jonathan Forrest

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Structure has always been important to me—organizing or bringing order to my paintings. But since 2000, I have used an overt geometric structure using masking tape and, until a few years ago, using only 90 degree angles. There are many reasons for this, and an important one would be an acknowledgment of my early influences (including Western Canadian abstract painters William Perehudoff and Robert Christie and structurist Eli Bornstein). But on a practical level, I realized that having a very simple geometric layout for a painting—at the time a rectangle within the picture frame’s rectangle—allowed other issues to be explored. In other words, the painting’s layout became a given, allowing color and particularly the three-dimensional quality of the paint I use to become a critical focus of the picture.

But saying the layout was a given is misleading because in its crispness and clarity, a taped edge drew attention to the painterly incidents; thick was thicker when cleanly presented against thinness. Previous work’s gestural structure confused things. A messiness obscured my focus, my issues. So I adopted geometry in 2000 because it suited my purposes at the time. But over the last nine years, I have continued to use geometry, and gradually the composition or the drawing of these rectangles has become expressive in its own right. What seems at first glance like cold and aloof shapes become sensuous, warm and expressive objects. And the play between chaos and order—painterliness and structure—became more and more important.

The paintings have become more complex and layered, and their strangeness has opened my mind to new possibilities. In the last year or so, the shapes have become more eccentric. A slight leaning or distortion of an oddly shaped rectangle evokes architecture. Dynamic angles make a cartoon burst Shazam! Humor and everyday life observations creep in—and more and more the paintings take on a diary-like record of my day-to-day studio life—all the while sticking with that wonderfully simple masking tape!

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