Current Artist of

the Month

JEREMY HERNDL

Every month, RESET// shines the spotlight on one artist and their practice. 

Jeremy Herndl is a painter who lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. This month's AOTM text is wonderfully written by Jeremy himself.

JH: Painting for me starts way back to when I was a kid living in the bush on the coast of British Columbia. I was bit wild running through the forest and climbing trees but I wasn’t altogether comfortable in the bush. I knew it was dangerous, I was afraid of cougars, bears and ghosts but it was the ghosts that I feared the most, especially then ones in the lake. It was actually my great grandmothers property, she had bought it for a dollar many years ago, it was the dregs of an industrial logging camp but with her care (she was naturalist before it was cool) it became a young forest again. Mom was a single mom with two kids and we lived in the other cabin on the lake - it had no running water inside and the toilet was an outhouse. To have a bath we had a canvas fold out tub and of course, mum got the first bath and the kids went second and third. Mum caught me talking to the lake one day and expressed her concern about it to Grandma - but Grandma assured mom it was all good.

Camp Namegans, 2018, oil on canvas, 60x72inches

After we left the lake to live in the city, all I could do was long to return to the bush and I drew pictures of the train heading back into the mountains, I was nine. I continued though, to talk to places and I knew which ones were friendly and which ones held bad vibes and that is why I started painting places. I realized that places held experiences, at least for us people and painting places became a way to connect with people and try to figure out who the hell I am.

Cedar Creep, 2019, oil on linen, 24x22inches

Wild Man at Clack Creek, 2020, oil on linen, 24x22inches

Who I am is unremarkable. My childhood is marked by spontaneous moves and poverty. I went to dozens of schools before I finally dropped out. I found that the only way I could possibly figure out who I was, was to try to figure out where I was and I am still trying but I know I will never know. The best thing I can do is to look and try to paint what I see but it is constantly in flux, everything is, so my guess is that knowing anything can only last for a moment. Mom was a hard worker, so was Dad. I quit school and went to work at the shipyard as a labourer. I continued to be a labourer while going to art school and then grad school (why did I do that?!). Which I am still paying for ten years later. I have had the odd shot at teaching but everyone wants to teach because it pays well so I get by working at the opera as a set painter (which is like labour but creative and with cool people) and selling my work.

Sticks and Cloth (Pruning),2016, oil on canvas, 50x40inches

Observational painting is as much a labour as it is a conceptual pursuit. While it is didactic and mimetic, it is also durational and an act of witnessing the mutability of appearance as nothing looks the same way over the hours, days and weeks. I like that bit in W.J.T Mitchell’s Landscapes and Power when he acknowledges that mimesis is first conceived when we see nature reflecting itself in a lake. I learned that painting from observation is a way of paying attention, learning and possibly sharing an experience with place. I feel that the empathy I feel for the trees and things is a result of attention and I think it is important to share the experience with other people through painting. The paintings to me are secondary to the experience of spending all that time looking, thinking about relationships, the world, how the hell to make that colour, eating lunch, having a beer.…The paintings take a long time, we go through a lot. I feel that the place and the painter coalesce in the painting like it’s a mutual expression.

Second Growth, 2019, oil on canvas, 60 x 72inches

In the past I have always wanted to include evidence of human presence in a landscape. I wanted to work with the notion that landscape is a human construct and further, that nature is too. In this case the human element is present in the painting (and certainly in the presentation here) as the forest is second growth after being logged some 80 years ago and also the presence of the painter and later the person looking at the painting.  

When I am painting I go through a gamut of feelings. I think about my relationships, my past, conversations that I had or am having with people. Then I stop thinking for a bit, and I just notice textures and colours, the scent of a place and the sounds. Sometimes the difference between looking at something and painting it collapses into this weird kind of tactile onomatopoeia. I love it when that happens and I think thats why I paint actually - its a way of really being with something. Anyway, then that magic gets interrupted by my mind and I work till I’m not thinking again.

Untitled, 2019, oil on linen, 12 x 10inches

Landscape and Theory, 2019, oil and gesso on book

It takes awhile to commit to making a painting in a particular place, usually, its a place that I have visited often and feel like I have gotten to know it or at least want to know more. I prepare a canvas and drive to the location, hike my stuff to the spot and spend the day. I will then return to the place for several days, sometimes up to a couple of weeks. I noticed that light and colour shifts a lot over days and weeks and I try to attend to those shifts. Sometimes I work in the studio from pictures but those are for the more anecdotal paintings. Its actually a bit of a contradiction that I have been trying to reconcile for years, working from photos and working from life - both yield different results but where the former is more fun the latter seems more important, like a real interaction with place.

You can see more of my work on my website, and on my Instagram.

SUBSCRIBE FOR UPDATES

  • Instagram