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 Bopst‘s paintings with an otherworldliness of caricature, floral prints and the artist’s 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 Bopst’s approach—both in subject and in technique—can be found in two very different artists.

Pierre Bonnard’s 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 line—every detail is weighted equally—often forgoing three-dimensional illusion for high resolution illustration. And—all puns aside—this 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 Bopst’s other pieces—making them all the more intimate and compelling.

Bopst’s work also has an affinity with Gustav Klimt’s intense employment of pattern and flattening of form to unify the composition. A portraitist, Klimt’s 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 selection—skin 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 strokes—which isn’t to say Bopst doesn’t allow herself to luxuriate in painterly moments and scumbled services—generally 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. It’s the same space employed by Richard Linder, Alice Neal or Lucien Freud—that Bopst brands with her own unique sense of irony and technical aplomb.
 
Though, much like a Flannery O’Connor short story, Bopst’s repertoire of humor, compressed moments, mordant distortion and clever design works best when it subtlety renders the artist’s underlying compassion for her subjects.

Ted Randler Grid Magazine January 12, 2010


"...Jennifer Holloway paints in an immediately recognizable style. She would be easy to pick out in a group show due to her almost formulaic approach to the human body on canvas. The faces are modeled with light and shade, but the bodies and background are specifically flat - basically outlined and then filled in with pools of color and patterns. This compression of the space literally pushes the countenance of the sitter into the viewer's face. Holloway, cognizant of this effect, notes, " By mixing finely worked figures against flat fields of color and pattern, the people are thrust to the foreground to be seen in an empathetic light." Empathetic is an interesting choice because it suggests a sense of pity and understanding of another's feeling and situation. The pity here is closely aligned to the type one has for drivers license photographs. No one has a good picture on their license so we can all commiserate on that matter together. This is rather like what Holloway's portraits do with each other. Her style is part expressionistic, part realistic and part caricature, distorting and exaggerating one's face with bulging wrinkles, sunken eyes, unblinking stares, anthropomorphic hair, and strange bluish and greenish casts. The effect is like looking in a distorted fun-house mirror. Stretched and manipulated in a clownish manner, the face is matched with brash, acidic background colors and dizzying, nightmarish patterns, The sitters themselves seem aware of their distorted faces and carnival settings because they smirk, grimace and stifle giggles as they gaze upon each other. Her portraits are not particularly flattering, but they are definitely compelling."

Jennifer Ramirez Style Magazine August 15, 2000
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