This grand oil on canvas evokes a sense of calm in the young forest where one can imagine the muted sounds of wind rustling tree branches only to be absorbed in the verdant undergrowth that blankets the forest floor. Jeremy Herndl painted this in Francis King Regional Park, a place known for its old growth forest, wildflower meadows, and marshland. His direct engagement with nature is rooted in ecological responsibility: currently over 90% of Vancouver Island’s forests have been logged. The title, Second Growth, refers to a forest which has regrown after a timber harvest. In this sense, the serenity of Herndl’s brushwork in this painting is also encoded with a message of hope where ‘second growth’ represents nature’s ability to return. Herndl’s immersive painting blurs the boundaries between human and wilderness thus exposing the problems with this dualistic opposition. As Herndl says, “I think that the old dualist thinking about humans and nature as completely separate has brought us to this situation now, where we find ourselves in such ecological trouble.”
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.