Jennifer Lefort


Jennifer Lefort: Beacon (in colour), installation view (2013). Images courtesy Parisian Laundry, Montreal.Jennifer Lefort: Beacon (in colour), installation view (2013). Images courtesy Parisian Laundry, Montreal.

By James D. Campbell

Jennifer Lefort
Parisian Laundry
Jan. 16 – Feb. 16, 2013

The recent abstracts by Jennifer Lefort that filled both floors of Parisian Laundry possess all the pizzazz of a stellar explosion in space. Fittingly titled "Beacon (in colour)", the luminosity of the paintings was delivered with the artist’s characteristically brash and no-holds-barred audacity. Here, the gestural vectors and matrices of her earlier work were complemented, but by no means subsumed, by a new preoccupation with light.

Lefort’s 12 large-scale paintings (all 2012) on the first floor did not trade on representational images of light but on bursts of radiation in which the elements interrelated in truly semaphore-like fashion. Lefort has explored gestural and biomorphic gambits and now embraces the language of coloured light. The works are flooded with diverse luminosities that activate and are activated by pigment amoebae that swarm in and leave tasty excrescences in their wake. The remarkable spontaneity and freshness that is the hallmark of her work is still fully present. The splayed contents of the paintings communicate internally with deft precision and demonstrate glue-like formal cohesion and interconnectedness in their microstructures.

On the second floor, Lefort mixed up the scale, with tiny paintings playing off larger ones and signal groups in one painting communicating effortlessly with their neighbors. Taken as a whole, the installation was a beautifully modulated environmental and, unavoidably, solar volume. The explosive coronal content here perhaps marks sudden re-ignition of nuclear fusion at the heart of a given painting or the collapse of its core into seductive diaspora. She has pushed her formal language once again and the departure point of her visual lexicon are rapturous chains of light where porosity is foremost. These paintings know nothing of opacity and make no overtures to closure.

Finding Messages (Love): Jennifer Lefort: Finding Messages (Love), 2012. Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.Jennifer Lefort: Finding Messages (Love), 2012. Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.Beacons have always helped guide travelers to their destinations and Lefort is no mean navigator herself. Visual beacons ranged here from small taches to broad strokes and larger networks of gestural feints, splotches and splashes, lovely coagula of painted matter that signaled, above all, this artist’s enduring love for her paint. Like halogen bulbs, xenon flashtubes, LED lights, rainbows blossoming in the heart of rock crystal spheres or spectrographic prisms, and even the flashing sirens on the top of police cars heading to an emergency, Lefort’s beacons constitute an inventory that is also an itinerary through the myriad textures of light itself. Furthermore, if ‘beaconing’ is the process that allows a given network to self-repair network problems, then it works in these paintings to immunize them against any and all stasis or sameness. Think of painting as a lighthouse perched on a hill, guiding travelers at sea through replete darkness.

Lefort’s unfettered art of optical telegraphy easily proves she is no slacker where networking skills are concerned. Her luminous rafts of modular, mutable and distributable marks makes for an edgy interplay of integers that call to mind Mark Taylor’s seminal notion of “combinatorial play”. Taylor suggests that networks adhere to organizational schemata radically distinct from the rationalized grids and hierarchies that enjoyed virtual hegemony from the Enlightenment through Modernism. For him, the network is both structure and paradigm. The network effectively displaces the grid. This is an emerging, enduring truth of Lefort’s abstracts.

If you say that something is a ‘trick of the light‘, you really mean that what you are seeing is an effect caused by the way the light is falling on something, and that the object does not really exist in the way that it is appearing. Lefort uses coloured shapes to adjust wavelength and establish telemetry. The tache becomes a sort of voice. Spidery minarets of tiered marks are like illuminated watchtowers inside painting, leading her and her viewers homewards. Her tricks of the light are no mere exercise in painterly legerdemain, no mere dissemblance for its own sake. They grow her painting language and guard it against the hungry spectres of stasis and vitrification. This was the latest instalment in a gifted painter’s ongoing paean to process and luminosity, when process means passion and light portends epiphany.