It’s not about Flowers

Jeni Calvert is a recent graduate of the 2019 Newlyn School Mentoring Course where she re evaluated her practise in order to focused her attention more acutely on where her painting resides within current contemporary thinking.

Her interest in apocryphal humanitarian issues and innate hope for a better world seemed like a contemporary mirror to the 19th century painters of the sublime. Paying homage to artists such as Turner, Casper David Friedrich and John Martin and later Mark Rothko her object is the same, in the face of insurmountable catastrophe to find something to believe in an extra dimension through painting.

The role of flowers has a long history and presence in all movements of art. Some of those historic allegories beauty, fragility, love and transience all inspire the painting of flowers in Jeni Calvert’s work however she also hijacks the floral as metaphors for both her own personal circumstances and symbols of the society we live in. Constantly experimenting with how the floral is depicted, she paints flowers in full bloom, dissected and scattered or fading and dying symbolising much of society’s perilous appetite for self aggrandisement and vanity. The flowers take centre stage deliberately distracting the viewer to their form and beauty illustrating how we only pay lip service to important global issues without compromising our own lifestyles.

Flowers are also representative of Calvert’s own context and the wider pigeon holing of middle aged, middle class, menopausal, white female artists and their lack of representation by the contemporary art world and the perceived expectation that they make pretty paintings of flowers or landscapes for provincial society shows and galleries. So painting flowers and landscapes that are disrupted and outside preconceived ideals strengthens Calvert’s resolve to continue painting difficult and unpopular subject matter in the predominantly male art market.

Walking on Thin Ice

The time for superficial, self centred art is over, the time for Artivism is here. Artivism is a new movement that seeks express the challenges of the world around us. Jeni Calvert as an Artivist painter embarked on a four year project inspired by her humanitarian background and a lifelong interest in climate change.

In 2022/23 she explores ICE not in a literary sense but in its relation to climate change and the worlds all to slow reaction to minimise the rise in global temperature. Rather than just depicting arctic landscapes she distracts the viewer from the subject matter with diaphanous layers of paint and closely observed flowers illustrating how easy it is to ignore the global catastrophe when engaged with the distractions of the contemporary living and our appetite for beauty, the expressive energetic painting combined with closely observed detail convey her emotional response to being frustrated with the slow pace of change.

Whilst her current practise is not about arctic landscapes, most of Calvert’s paintings start with a landscape and as subsequent layers develop and the painting takes on its own identity influenced by music and mood, often the initial painting is completely obliterated and sometimes as with ‘Open Your Eyes’ it takes a completely different direction, in this case a literal cry of anguish directly motivated by our government’s environmental policy U turns. Sometimes we cannot control what we paint.

ICE will continue till April 2023 when it will give way to FIRE.