In this large oil on canvas, the viewer is confronted with a massive and endangered Western red cedar nestled in a towering forest. Regal and extending far beyond the canvas, the base of this ancient tree is surrounded by smaller hemlocks and Douglas firs that are evoked through loose brushstrokes that verge on complete abstraction. The playful exchange of light, bright colours and deep shadow evoke the experience of being inside the west coast Canadian rainforest. Many of Herndl’s impressive forestscapes are painted not in a studio, but rather deep in the forests of Fairy Creek, BC. This decision to paint en plein air, made famous by Impressionist painters for its ability to evoke the immediacy of light, is rooted in environmental concerns. This rare rainforest stands on the brink of extinction and it is one of the last unprotected old growth watersheds on southern Vancouver Island, providing habitat for rare and endangered species. The title, Grandmother Tree (Solstice), refers to the ancient roots of this forest, where trees can range from 250 to over 1000 years old. The same year this was painted, local activists staged a protest around the active logging industry which continues to threaten the extinction of massive trees, such as the one Herndl depicts in this work.
Contemporary artist Jeremy Herndl’s mesmerizing outdoor paintings are known for their richly saturated tones that capture the verdant, ever-shifting nature of light, colour and shadow through an interplay of loose brushwork and brilliant edges steeped in richly saturated light. Herndl’s paintings offer a contemporary reconsideration of what it means to engage with notions of nature, environmentalism, and the legacy of landscape painters’ engagement with national identity. As Herndl says, “my approach is based on the tradition of working from life but with an awareness of the inseparability of life and culture.”
Rooted in the Western tradition of landscape painting, Herndl’s works nonetheless reinvigorate the genre through a contemporary context that address how nature is informed by discourses about decolonization, ecosystems. Informed as much by Abstract Expressionism as by the rich history of landscape paintings in his native Canada, such as the rich legacies of the Group of Seven and Emily Carr, Herndl describes his approach as one of “receptivity and service” between humans and nature. The site-specificity of his paintings highlight the endangered ecosystems of ancient forests, where climate change and the active logging industry have pushed to the brink of extinction.
Born in Surrey, British Columbia, Herndl received his MFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2011 and his BFA from NSCAD in 1996. The recipient of many grants and awards, Herndl most recently received the Helen Frankenthaler Fellowship (2019), the BC Arts Council Research and Development Grant (2018) and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundations Grant (2017). Since 2010, he has participated in exhibitions at the Surrey Art Gallery, Open Space Art Society, Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, BC and GoCart Gallery in Visby, Sweden.
His work is in permanent collections across North America and Europe, including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Surrey Art Museum, The University of Victoria, The City of Victoria, The West Vancouver Museum, The City of Surrey, The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Internationally, his work is in corporate and private collections across the USA and Europe, including Brucebo Foundation and Koncepthus in Sweden.