Jenna North

Jenna North came by a couple of nights ago, to discuss her recent work in detail. She’s very casual when discussing her work, as if she takes it for granted that because she's lived with it for so long, and knows it so well, we will too as soon as we see it. Her work has such drama and effect, that people love it or hate it, and it's been my case that explaining her process is vital to understanding and appreciating her work. My first experience with Jenna’s work was a series entitled ‘Gray Tones’ which we represented in 2007 at our first art fair in Miami and at a group exhibition with Gerald Cannon and David Yun, entitled ‘Digital Divide.’ The 'Gray Tones' were meticulously hand painted and based on algorithms generated by an antiquated computer program called Mathematica. In the series, Jenna’s premise represented a variation of the patterns generated by sound, as defined by Mathematica. Her process was very controlling, and the resulting paintings, Jenna’s representation of sound waves, was surprisingly effective, drawing the viewer in with mesmerizing effect.

Jenna’s new work, ‘The Weather Pattern’ series is a product of the ‘Gray Tones,’ where control of color and form are still shown with strict, hand painted lines of enamel; organized according to her particular rules for painting. The new element is Jenna’s decision to allow chance, expressionism, and the physicality of the paint to enter her work. She takes on almost every painterly tool available, acrylic, enamel, encaustic, glitter, gravity, heat, and oil paint – for elements of texture and expression - with explosive effect. Her new choice is a big movement away from her earlier study of control, although control remains strongly present in her compositions, use of variegated shades of gray, and collage. Her latest two works in the series, ‘Paleomagnetism’ and ‘Wet Spell,’ are almost wholly expressionistic, showing practically none of her previous control, and her work seems to become purely ruled by chance. Our discussion impressed me with Jenna’s ideas of chance, expression and the physicality of paint, their importance to her in relation to her current work, and how she visually manifests them. While the direction may be founded on modern ideas, as employed by Pollock and Gilhooly, the work is purely Jenna North’s, contemporary and compelling.

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