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"Considered View 2"
Jeannette Johns, "Considered View 02," 2014, screenprint, inkjet print, 24.8” x 36.3”.
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"Considered View 10"
Jeannette Johns, "Considered View 10," 2014, screenprint, inkjet print, 24.8” x 36.3”
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"Considered View 03"
Jeannette Johns, "Considered View 03," 2014, screenprint, inkjet print, 24.8” x 36.3”.
JEANETTE JOHNS: Looking for Length
Ace Art Inc., Winnipeg
April 17, 2014 to May 23, 2014
By Sarah Swan
Graphs are an artful solution to complex sets of data. They are visually elegant; one horizontal and one vertical axis meet to contain an erratic line of points. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Winnipeg artist Jeanette Johns uses graphs, maps and other spatial diagrams in her work. This, and the fact that diagrams say a lot about human nature and our need to measure everything under the sun. But what’s most compelling about Johns’ show, Looking for Length, is that the work can be read as an attempt to measure the infinite.
In recent years, Johns has focused on bridging the distance between the empirical intentions of data and our actual, lived experience. Her depictions contain the same precision as those found in academic journals, yet they appear pensive, even wistful at times. Take, for example, Untitled (Perspective Drawing 03) and Untitled (Perspective Drawing 05). Both works are landscapes made up of watercolour clouds and elements of graphs or grids. And in both, the diagram’s straight lines seem to contradict all of that floating transience. The drawings are quiet, due to their delicate colouring and small size, but they have a unique emotional intelligence.
Conversely, Considered Views are large screen and inkjet photographic prints of oceans and skies that have instant appeal. Blue skies, after all, are uplifting. In Considered View 04, an airplane wing is subtly indicated, placing the viewer in the passenger seat. Considered View 02 contains a patchwork field, a horizon line and a wide-open sky – in short, everything that satisfies a prairie-dweller’s ethos. But as meridian or perspective lines cross portions of the works, they cease being easy-to-read seascapes or landscapes and instead become like aerial surveys. Whereas surveys are typically used to find and describe geographical features, these works are almost existential. They are attempts to locate the self in relation to vastness.
In Johns’ visual language, watercolour clouds, blue depths and precise diagrams add beauty to the search. Even so, her video pieces are decidedly more pessimistic. In Multi-stage Distance we become a passenger again. We hear a train chugging as trees and undergrowth become a blur of pinks and purples. But instead of travelling forward, we move back and forth on the same patch of land.
Johns’ work is partly an academic exploration, yet it speaks more about what lies beyond our mental grasp. In this way, it has something in common with poetry, the kind that sweeps the reader up into something immense. But it is also refined, hemmed in, as it is, by fixed lines.