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Following Birch

 Exhibition at Ruth Upjohn Gallery, Toronto, October 1-31, 2019

Over a period of about five years, a very tall, old, white birch tree I’d been familiar with for a long time was dying back from its top branches. In 2017, the tree had to be cut down. The wood was destined for the wood burning stove, but with the discovery that the bark could be removed from the rounds of wood, I wanted to work somehow with its natural beauty.

The process began with cleaning the bark, letting it dry while weighing it down to prevent its curling, sanding it smooth, and marking and cutting selected areas. With rectangular frames constructed to dimensions of each piece, the birch bark was glued to the frame and clamped in place.

 The white paper birch grows within dynamic forest communities from east to west across Canada. As I worked with the birch bark, I re-entered the study of trees: their light harvesting through the majesty of chlorophyll and photosynthesis, their nutrient foraging and interplant communication through formidable networks of fungal mycelium, their structural system for the active transport of water and nutrients throughout the tree, their seasonal variations of wood growth, and the vital plant respiratory exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that provides the oxygen we breathe and stores the carbon dioxide we produce. 

 All this activity in the life of one tree lies within a single piece of birch bark. Each piece holds the story of its part in the life of the tree. When faced with the moment of beginning to paint birch bark, at first I intended to convey some aspects of this usually hidden story of birch. Very soon I realized I did not want to impose any idea on the birch bark’s inherent patterns. Instead I would follow what was there, seeking to harmonize my brushwork with what was given.

 Each piece is painted, some more than others. Some have warm colours evocative of solar energy, or blues of atmosphere and water, and greens of chlorophyll-imbued plant life. But mostly there are the light and dark ruddy brown tones of inner birch bark.

 This show is dedicated to a deepening appreciation of trees and the forests of Canada.

Carolyn Jongeward, October 2019


 Correspondences: Arts of the Loom and Easel

Exhibition at Art Gallery of Bancroft, April 3 –27, 2019

The artwork in this exhibition consists of abstract paintings and hand-woven tapestries. The paintings and tapestries are paired to highlight one or more types of correspondences, such as vibrant colour relations and colour mixing, geometric proportions and forms, or rhythmic patterns and symmetries.

Designing and weaving tapestries exposed me to the sumptuous quality of coloured wool, and its wide-ranging palette of hues and tones. Working with wool ignited my interest in the vibrancy of colours that result from their innumerable interactions—harmonies, contrasts, the rhythms of the parts within the whole. A unique possibility for vibrant colour in tapestry weaving comes from its basic structure of weft threads crossing over (and covering) warp threads. Each point of intersection can be a point of colour, and so the principles of pointillism can be creatively applied to tapestry weaving. My exploration of dynamic colour relations through tapestry weaving carries over to my abstract paintings, where the medium allows for moment-by-moment juxtapositions and layering of colours into vivid compositions.

Tapestry weaving, with its structure of horizontal weft and vertical warp, is a form of natural mathematics: a kind of spatial counting. My affinity for geometric patterning—which goes back to childhood knitting of diamond socks and Nordic sweater designs—grew stronger when I encountered the dynamic patterns of Navajo rugs and watched the women weave. From there, my tapestry design process involved geometry or rhythmic patterns, drawing inspiration from nature forms and processes, astronomy, and diverse weaving traditions. My affinity for geometry and rhythmic patterning is revealed in my paintings. In this exhibition, some paintings derive from rhythmic mark making, others from patterns of geometric shapes, and others from ancient window lattice designs.

Carolyn Jongeward, April 2019


Painting's Dynamic Process

From the first brush stroke of a painting, there is a search for connection of feeling and form. Then, each application of colour augments, modifies, eradicates, or transforms what existed before. Each moment calls for beginning again, a fresh set of eyes: How will I travel in this visual space that's emerging?Points, lines, and shapes of colour become a unity, complete in itself. Layers of meaning become revealed slowly or in a flash.

My artwork features colour rhythms and patterns that generate the overall composition of an acrylic painting. Some paintings use repeated, short, straight, or curving lines that combine into discernible patterns. The patterns that form from relatively simple brush strokes - unplanned - generate and organize the composition. Dynamics of colour contrast activate the patterns. In a sense the patterns that emerge from these colour rhythms are elemental.

Block printing, by means of hand-carved lino blocks and the application of dye pigment on cotton or canvas, provides another avenue for the creation of pattern. I generate geometric lattices and pattern symmetries, and welcome all the subtle and surprising variations of colour and visual texture that the medium conveys. Some artwork combines layers of acrylic painting and block printing.

My current work continues to explore the visual relationships that emerge through combining the "refinement" of organized pattern with the disorganized or "untamed" moments and marks of painting.

Carolyn Jongeward, August 2010