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Geometric lines shape current VASA art exhibit

Carolyn Jerrard's abstract expressionist paintings highlight tension in our social, political and economic landscape.

Geometric lines and odd angles. That's the stuff of Carolyn Jerrard's abstract collection currently hanging at the Visual Arts Studio Association (VASA) until May 27. 

The Sylvan Lake abstract expressionist painted OUT OF LINE... during the pandemic, a time when society was sharply fragmented and living in a shifting landscape. Each painting in the 14-piece collection was part of Jerrard's healing journey as she examines emotional distance, instability, upheavals, control, strength and harmony.  

In Jerrard's visual language, geometric lines are key elements of composition. Whether framed as squares, rectangles, triangles or circles, they create a landscape, a mood, an emotion, or reawaken a memory. 

Each painting is relentlessly experimental. They question our lifestyles, choices and decisions made during and since the pandemic. More than most collections displayed at VASA, these works highlight tension in our social, political and economic landscape. 

"I don't think we can move forward if we don't talk about what we went through. On both sides, there is deep trauma, and it needs to be shared. As we move away, there are still deep divisions. But unless we address the divisions, there will never be unity," said Jerrard. 

In keeping with an expressionist format, she splashes vibrant acrylic colours across the canvas while embracing a controlled precision. For instance, Solid as a Rock depicts a series of intertwined diamond-shaped lines chained together, suggesting mountains. 

"I didn't want people to see human forms. I wanted people to look at it and see different things. The message could be different depending on who looks at it and what their experiences are," Jerrard said. 

Growing up in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Jerrard was introduced to industrial arts in high school. The program included welding, mechanics, drafting and art. The school even installed a kiln for pottery. 

After graduating high school, Jerrard searched for broader adventures travelling to Japan and New Zealand before opting to take a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations. The program included arts courses where she met Brazilian abstract artist Samantha daSilva. 

"She explained acrylics to me, and a light bulb went off. I didn't understand the basic breakdown and how to maximize it on the canvas the way I wanted to." 

By December 2011, Jerrard was selling abstract acrylics by word of mouth. Unaware of the painting's true value, the canvasses were undersold. However, when a Calgary police officer dropped by her Calgary home studio to buy a painting, his comments prompted Jerrard to re-evaluate her worth. 

"He said, 'I can't believe this is an original art from a local artist and I can afford it.' That was huge for me. I realized regular people didn't know they could buy original art – that this could be a reality for a lot of people." 

The visual artist launched CJ Custom Art accepting mainly commissions including painting pieces for television shows. At first, she depicted "pretty things" that arose from her fascination with colour. 

"One producer said to me, 'Your art works so well for TV. It doesn't stand out.' It's exciting to do a painting where you get paid a ton of money. And the producer bought the piece. But I wanted to move in a different direction that wasn't just aesthetically pleasing." 

The producer's comments created a shift away from "generic art." 

"Now I'm more focused on the message. Now I want to connect with people and my paintings have a greater level of depth and meaning." 

OUT OF LINE... is on display at VASA, 25 Sir Winston Churchill Avenue.  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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