Creating tension through her subjects and her artifice to illuminate the absurd, zany, poignant and oddly intimate junctures of the Facebook-bourgeoisie provides Jennifer Holloway Bopsts paintings with an otherworldliness of caricature, floral prints and the artists predilection for near-neon hues.
While the above could be a recipe for a mash of cloying sentimentality framed in cartoonish form, for the most part, Bopst smartly edits the imagery and maintains the necessary emotional distance from her subjects to avoid mere mawkish depiction and instead raises the portraits to an authentic aesthetic experience. Antecedents for Bopsts approachboth in subject and in techniquecan be found in two very different artists.
presentation of 19th-century domestic bliss in compositions of vibrant red,
orange and yellow held in check by their complementary colors takes the scenes
of ordinary moments in life (dining, bathing, resting) into extraordinary realms
of saturated hues and design.
Bopst , likewise, uses everyday images of children, family, pets and the occasional odd object (the typical personal flotsam you will find posted in Facebook or Flicker albums) and, by careful editing or color engineering, creates sophisticated, stylized, at times wry, presentations of the middle-class milieu.
Yet, where Bonnard opts for a more romanticized and generalized figure on ground, Bopst delineates her subjects with precise, contoured lineevery detail is weighted equallyoften forgoing three-dimensional illusion for high resolution illustration. Andall puns asidethis is the fine line Bopst must maintain between the attempts at rendering verisimilitude for portraiture as oppose to cashing in on the easier (but less resonating) take of caricature or cartoon.
The artist is most successful when the narrative created from the imagery counter-balances the glib presentation of distorted perspective and intense hues.
In the diptych comprised of See Saw What You Did and its sister painting We Saw an enigmatic moment between a parent and child on playground is portrayed, with both subjects obviously related, but isolated on individual canvases. Though given the same palette and style as the other works, these two paintings seem to risk a somewhat pensive familial moment and read a little less arch than Bopsts other piecesmaking them all the more intimate and compelling.
Bopsts work also has an affinity with Gustav Klimts intense employment of pattern and flattening of form to unify the composition. A portraitist, Klimts excessive ornamentation of his subjects in impossible geometrics of orange and gold merges the figure and ground sometimes to the point where a subject is nearly obscured by the technique. The painting takes precedence over who is being portrayed.
Likewise, Bopst flattens the compositions and compresses the subjects into the spiral and spin of floral prints in backgrounds or patterns on clothes. The technique speaks to the tradition of Asian woodblock prints where forms are similarly locked by passages of clashing designs within pronounced borders.
The compressed design reinforces the more object-making aspects of the paintings and allows the artist to play with color where typically rendered shadow, space or detail would be. Bopst works intuitively with her color selectionskin tones are represented in everything from paste-white flesh to raw magenta or even a fauvist ice-blue as in the case of The Answer. Applied in careful washes of pigment and exacting strokeswhich isnt to say Bopst doesnt allow herself to luxuriate in painterly moments and scumbled servicesgenerally the hues, like the details, all have equal tones that add to the flattened, illustrational end result.
Ultimately, the artist creates a highly-refined format of isolation, evenly-lit design and psychological triggers that are intuitively forged. Its the same space employed by Richard Linder, Alice Neal or Lucien Freudthat Bopst brands with her own unique sense of irony and technical aplomb.
Though, much like a Flannery OConnor short story, Bopsts repertoire of humor, compressed moments, mordant distortion and clever design works best when it subtlety renders the artists underlying compassion for her subjects.
Ted Randler Grid Magazine January 12, 2010