Friday, October 28, 2011

REVIEW: Janet Fredericks “Minute Particulars” at Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery

by Jocelyn Grayson

While visiting refugee camps abroad with her husband Tom, who founded the organization "Magicians Without Borders”, Janet fills her sketchbooks with elaborate observations of places seen on her travels. When she is at home in her quiet garden and studio, she spends time observing what she calls the most common of plants, becoming increasingly attuned to their amazing intelligence.

For the past 15 years Janet has been drawn to water as a subject and motif for her work. Early on she drew hulls of boats and ships, which especially in her ' burning boats' series became metaphors of universal human experience, which took on an epic quality in association with symbols taken from classical myth and allegory. The more she has become fascinated by what she calls the “language” of water itself, the more intimately engaged she has become, not only with the mapping of those things that can be seen on the surface, but also with those things that “lie beneath”, that cannot be defined in literal ways, but can only be sensed on a deeper level. Water combines aspects of the ephemeral and the eternal which affect us in different ways. In its randomness, Janet has also allowed herself to discover what she calls " a regulatng force" which unites the dissimilar and the disconnected in its ever moving flow.

"For me," she writes,"drawing is about discovery, recording with marks on paper the language of my environment."

Her current exhibition is entitled Minute Particulars after a line from visionary poet and artist William Blake,"He who wishes to see a vision, a perfect whole, must see it in Minute Particulars." And it is, interestingly enough, this rare combination of passion and patience, to see things large that are writ small, that distinguishes Janet's work, and makes it memorable.

These new drawings and paintings explore her increasing absorption in the life of insects and what this life has to tell us. This interest began when she started to go outdoors to draw plants in her own garden, discovering what she describes as "common plants in disturbed soil.” Her attention to the plant itself was arrested by the quantity and variety of insect life that were being drawn to them, pollinating, eating, mating, living... and she became aware of a kind of Indra's Net of interdependency and diversity. "One cannot sit quietly and observe these creatures without pondering some big questions, like what intelligent force drives this miraculous activity, and what role do we as humans play in all of this?"

In a recent waking vision, Janet was visited by her brother who died when he was ten years old. He appeared to her with a swarm of bees hovering over him, one speaking by his ear. It was as if this was a signal to pay attention to what the bees could be saying and Janet has since been alerted to the language of the smallest of creatures and what they might have to say concerning the seismic shifts which are beginning to affect us on this planet. As Joanne Elizabeth Luce said, she is beginning to hear "the voice of the infinite in the small."

These paintings of insects and the world of plants depict the beauty and the fullness of life ascending, spiraling upwards with a rich, ripening fecundity. Her palette has changed from the more subdued colors of some of her earlier works, and they shimmer with rich ochres, brilliant blues, golds and reds, as if dazzled by the beauty of butterflies (the symbol of Psyche or the soul in classical myth). But there is a disturbing radiance. These paintings celebrate the miraculous bio-diversity of the world, while combining the sense of fear and wonder. Words not completely heard carry messages to us on the wind.

Like most great art, Janet's finest works ask questions rather than providing answers...What are the insects prophesying to the wind? Yet the predominant sense of her works still remains one of beauty, intimate and rare, which is captured lingeringly, intricately in the spell of the moment.

Minute Particulars will be at Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery through November 29.

Luminosus, 2011, 48 x 48"
Of the World in its Becoming, 2011, 30 x 40"
Psyche's Ascent, 2011, oil on canvas, 28 x 39.5"