Marie Prins interviewed artist Jennifer Trefiak in her Colborne Studio this summer about her vibrant “intuitive landscapes.” Jennifer will be one of the featured artists at the Art Gallery of Northumberland’s Spotlight Series 3 this Friday, August 27, at 7 PM at the Port Event Space in Port Hope.
When visiting Jennifer Trefiak in her Colborne studio and gallery, I step into a calm, welcoming space that reflects the spirit of her paintings. By her definition, they are “intuitive landscapes,” full of colour that radiates the wonder of northern lights, the peace or turbulence of the Great Lakes, and the natural beauty of Canada’s vast landscapes. As I view each scene, I sense Jennifer’s spiritual connectedness to earth/sky/water and her subtle, underlying themes of climate change, the sacred feminine, and her First Nations heritage.
As a child and teenager, Jennifer often found herself drawn to Cobourg’s beach where she spent time alone tuning into the peaceful, centering power of Lake Ontario. As an adult, she and her family travel to parks in Ontario and walk the beaches of its lakes and hike the trails in its mountains. These wilderness spaces, especially the north shore of Lake Superior, evoke strong emotions of connectedness in Jennifer that she translates into her art. While she perceives herself as a guest in northern Ontario’s landscape, she feels it’s her home and the place where her soul dwells. She cannot wait to travel there this summer.
Jennifer’s camera is an important tool in the creation of her paintings. When camping, she takes many photographs of the places that draw her into and connect her to the spirit of the land. Back in her studio, she uses these photographed images to capture the landscape on canvas in her abstract, intuitive style of bright colour and gestural brushwork. Her painting style has been honed over many years, perhaps inspired by the boxes of 64 Crayola crayons given by her mother at the beginning of each school year, crayons with magical colours and enticing names.
Now when she chooses her palette, colour opens the door into “art magic” that channels her art ideas and themes for her painting series. She honours the intuitive pull of her colour choices, aware that some are intentional and others experimental as she plays and works on each piece. Jennifer believes that looking is an important part of painting – looking inside herself and outside on the canvas for how the art will unfold or present itself. If she “gets stuck,” she’ll leave a painting for awhile and work on another one.
Jennifer titles her paintings, often using snippets from poems, song lyrics, or books, believing that if she chooses a title wisely, it can help convey the underlying theme in the painting. Almost all of Jennifer’s art has images of water. She explains that in her Anishinabek culture, water is sacred and women are the caretakers of water. In all her work, Jennifer tries to reveal the spirit of the land of her ancestors and our human connectedness to Mother Earth. Some of the poetic titles in her Hiraeth Collection are “There is no place you end and I begin,” “I confess my love to the water,” and “Let me be the wilderness.”
Currently, Jennifer is working on a new series of paintings that focus on community. A sneak peek at the early ones reveal trees and their interconnectedness with each other, a very apropos theme in this time of pandemic when people have been missing friends, family, and cultural events. So…in her excellent blog, Jennifer’s July 14 post expresses her delight and gratitude about being chosen by the Art Gallery of Northumberland to be part of their community Spotlight Series 3, an annual fundraiser that shines a spotlight on artists in Northumberland. Look for its digital events, including Jennifer’s mini-documentary, running from August 20-29 at locations across the County.
When thinking about future, post-pandemic cultural events, Jennifer looks forward to the Third Northumberland Festival of the Arts in 2022 and to participating in its Artisan Show and Art Fair. At the conclusion of her interview, she mused that these Festivals highlight the need for a Cultural Centre in Northumberland that would draw together all creators in all artistic disciplines all the time. Jennifer Trefiak’s vibrant and dynamic paintings of Northumberland and Ontario’s landscapes would be a happy and natural fit on its walls.
–Interview by Marie Prins