Marylhurst art alum Jef Gunn ’05 was profiled by Oregon Arts Watch about his art-making process and philosophy in conjunction with his Sept. 2017 exhibition at Augen Gallery.
Jef Gunn creates art in a variety of forms, though he is best known for his encaustic paintings. Jef began using encaustic in 1985, before there were any books or classes on it. With encaustic, he brings together all of his other methods: papers and inks, fabric, tar and gold. His work draws on multiple lineages of art, culture and spiritual meaning.
Some of Jef’s works are now on display in an exhibition, Walking Land and Sky, at Augen Gallery in Northwest Portland, now through Sept. 30, 2017.
Oregon Arts Watch talked with Jef about this exhibition and his general approach to art-making. Here are our favorite excerpts from the conversation:
What do you think about paint? What is your relationship with paint? There are painters who have a relationship with paint itself and there are painters who just want to make an image with paint.
I love everything about it. I love color and form, but also material—I don’t only use oil paint and encaustic—primarily I do that. It’s material, the thing itself. Oil paint can be a lot of different things. It can be dry and wispy or it can be scratchy or wet and gooey. And it reveals your hand. It reveals a momentary gesture. It’s like your mind thinks something, your hand does it, and—something about the springiness of the brush, the viscosity of the paint—it appears as your thought.
Do you still do drawing?
Not as much and I feel guilty about that.
It still feels to me true that it’s the foundation. I used to draw incessantly. I’ve got boxes and boxes of old stuff.
Why do you think that dwindled away?
The more I started painting and the more I started going into the sort of repetition pieces on paper. The more I paint I think more like painting than I think like drawing. There’s an interesting correspondence between Matisse and Bonnard. When Matisse was feeling depressed about his painting, he said that a colorist who is a drawer is not the same thing as a painter, and that made me look at those two painters differently. And even in Bonnard’s drawings he draws like a painter. He draws shapes and textures and squiggles because he’s working the shape and texture in the field of the shape whereas Matisse draws and then puts big flats of color around to the drawing more or less.
What do you think about being a painter in the age of video and computer generated art?
There’s a part of me that feels like one day the electricity is going to go out and everyone’s going to not know how to sharpen a pencil. Some of my hobbies include edge tools—chisels and gouges, saws and things like that. I’m a carpenter, so I’ve got a huge collection of chisels and planes and things. I like to know how to keep them sharp. There are a lot of things you can do just as fast with hand tools. I love hand tools. I love tools of all kinds. So I’m very interested in non-electric and non-digital things—not just to preserve them in a museum. But, I have a feeling that it connects one to the moment in a way that screens don’t. Screens can’t actually.
This news item is an excerpt from an article by Paul Sutinen published by Oregon Arts Watch September 10, 2017. » Read the full article
Jef Gunn earned his B.F.A. in Art from Marylhurst University in 2005.