Julian Forrest : Press

"Images with Thrust"
Source: Edmonton Journal
Published: 02/26/2010
Author: Janice Ryan

Some art pleases the eye; some stirs the mind. When the two collide, as they do in Thrust, the results are rewarding.

Peter Robertson Gallery's latest show presents the works of local artists Julian Forrest and David Janzen. The themes, charged and at times slightly uncomfortable in their candid reality, are skilfully executed and highly engaging. It's the kind of art that forces one to linger and muse a little longer than normal.

Thrust explores contemporary male culture and is packed with strong and often phallic imagery. Riveted with tension, discord and at times conflict, the show is intelligent and invites the viewer to compose a running narrative as they peruse the 60-plus pieces of art.

The sense of movement and imposing power in the work makes Thrust a fitting name. "I gave David and Julian a bottle of scotch and told them to come up with a title," laughs gallery owner Peter Robertson. "I think viewers will be affected by the imagery. It is not simple painting. It requires prolonged viewing and some mental work to really see what the artist is trying to get at."

Both Forrest and Janzen are talented painters with a long line of accomplishments, including participation in the 2007 Alberta Biennial.

Raised in Quebec, Forrest spent a decade in the Maritimes before arriving in Edmonton seven years ago. He was fascinated by the influx of males pouring into the city because of the booming oil industry and was interested in how tension and violence can arise when money and men coexist in tight quarters.

Forrest is an ardent collector of found images and, like Janzen, gathers inspiration from the Internet and magazines. A series of motifs -- fire, hockey and schoolyard fights, plane collisions, coyotes (which he sees en route to U of A's Augustana campus in Camrose, where he teaches fine arts) -- are recurring themes throughout this new work.

"This show is all about metaphors and allegories dealing with conflict," Forrest says. In Stop Resisting, two wild dogs duel over a strip of meat, a symbol for "guys acting like a pack of wild animals."

Forrest mixes images and plays with the tactile properties of paint, applying oil paint with thick strokes and sometimes letting it drip down the canvas. In the diptych, What The Hell Am I Doing Here, Forrest added howling coyotes on top of an existing painting, leaving original areas to inform the new work and add a disjointed element to the story.

Janzen's objects of desire ---missile launches -- are depicted with splendour and volatility. "Growing up in a post-nuclear age, I knew what could happen in Grade 2," says Janzen. "My buddy told me there are enough missiles on the planet to blow us all to smithereens. That's something for an eight-year-old to carry around."

Decades later, the photo of a missile in a Chinese newspaper caught Janzen's eye. His first thought was "the Chinese have launched an astronaut into space." A quick Internet search revealed that a U.S. missile was aimed at an off-course satellite. What excited Janzen were the colour possibilities inherent to missile launches. "You can use every colour in the spectrum to paint them, from light blues and hot yellows to blacks and whites. It's an excuse to have fun with your palette."

Painting on needlepoint frames, LP records and even using a gilded Baroque frame, Janzen contrasts old world with new world realities. "With Julian and I, there is certain maleness to our imagery. We both hint at conflict and tension, even a sort of violence is suggested."

Yet along with this sense of unease, both artists instill a feeling of hope.