By Paulette Thenhaus
Landscapes over time
Natural time isn’t controlled by a clock, yet an observant eye can perceive its passing. It takes an artist such as Fred Jones to record it aesthetically for our contemplation. He does so by following his natural subjects: landscapes, trees and flowers, through temporal changes. He uses both painting and digital photography to record his impressions over time and often incorporates both in his final image. He regularly uses innovative grid structures both in creating and presenting his work.
In “Dandelion Time,” Jones “frames” time by both shooting digital images sequentially, literally a “frame” at a time, and then framing each resulting image. Here, ten framed images document the growth of the dandelion. They circle the periphery of the central image, a painted sunset sky with floating dandelions, “which are on a journey of rebirth.” Rarely do photographed and painted images relate so well to each other as they do within this grid system of frames, now a signature format of Fred Jones’ landscapes.
“Daytime,” 30” x 74,” is a simpler installation, read from top to bottom, but just as effective in conveying time’s journey. Twelve long, narrow, panoramic paintings show twelve consecutive hours, sunrise to sunset. It is reminiscent of Monet’s haystacks, but is a series of twelve paintings displayed as one day and one work. Sensitive to subtle changes of color, objects and vegetation are accented in one painting, then disappear in another as day journeys into night. No digital camera is used here. It takes a perceptive eye and master painter such as Fred Jones to capture all the nuance of changing light.
In one of the largest exhibits, 64” x 64,” “Flower Time,” full-framed photographs of flowers, at the height of their beauty, open in sensuous color. Frames in more than one color emphasize and attract our eyes to different sections which appears to be a color-coded garden. The artist states that one of his ideas here relates to the moment of pollination. Amazingly, while photographing the last plant, the last second before the shutter closed, a butterfly, the disseminator of pollen, landed within the frame. Nature has provided Jones with many “Ah–ha” moments that couldn’t be planned.
Another moment of surprise was when a hundred-year-old-plus tree Jones had photographed in every season over a period of a year, was struck down by lightening. Without staging it, “Tree Time” became a photo study of the last year in the life of a noble tree. The very title makes one imagine how a tree experiences time differently than by counting calendar days.
Among my favorites is “Healing Time.” Jones calls it “a tribute to the way the healing process goes on in small and large environments on both our planet and the solar system. Digital images of old and new tree scars surround a painting that glows like a hot star.
“Landscapes Over Time” is an excellent exhibit to jog the viewer to think more deeply about the landscape he/she passes on the way to a fully scheduled day. After all, none of the landscapes on view is further than a few miles of the artist’s home. Many are photographed from his own backyard in western Illinois. If we want nature to survive in the 21st century we have to pay attention to it and all that it evokes...give it the time of day, so to speak, in our everyday lives. Fred Jones certainly has.
“Landscapes Over Time” remains on view at the Galesburg Civic Art Center, 114 E. Main Street, Galesburg, till July 21st. For hours call: (309) 342-7415.
About artist Fred Jones
Fred Jones earned a National Diploma in Design in 1961 from Cardiff College of Art in Wales, Great Britain (his birthplace), plus an Art Teachers Diploma from the University of Wales in 1962. In 1965, he earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1970-1971 he attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, completing a Master of Fine Art degree specializing in the print technique of silkscreen. In 1979, while on sabbatical leave, he attended Atelier 17 in Paris (where he met and became friends with the late Clare Smith of Galesburg) and the Print Workshop in London. In 1987, he returned to the University of Wisconsin as an Honorary Fellow to study Computer Mediated Art.
He joined the Western Illinois University art faculty in 1968 as an instructor in Art Education, Design, and Drawing after teaching for two years at Chester College of Art in England. In 1969, he was appointed Gallery Director and continued in this position for two years. Jones developed the Silkscreen and Computer Generated Art programs. He has received many awards of distinction, including W.I.U. Faculty Lecturer of the year in 1995 and was awarded the rank of Distinguished Professor in 1999. He retired in 2000.
Since coming to Illinois in 1968, Jones has won numerous awards in national and regional exhibitions and has been the recipient of six commissions from Illinois Percentage for Art Program for his landscape artworks for public buildings. He has works in various public and private collections in the U.S. and the U.K.