Close your eyes and think of a painting by Jennifer Lonfat. There will be declamatory curves and hooked arcs which short-circuit between one part of the painting and another. There will be angles and swipes. Near circles loom and float about, amid smears and drifts of colour. In places, the paintwork will be flat and clean, in others it will hint at modelling, but it won't model much, or for very long. Shapes will mean something, but you can't tell exactly what.
All in all, there will be a great deal of activity on the painting's surface, even though the generally hectic composition and incidental rummaging about is alleviated by moments of relaxing blues and greens. There will be primary and secondary colours, but not too much of any one colour. There are patches of brightness, like sudden savage sunlight and complicated little journeys of serpentine line.
I came to Jennifer Lonfat's paintings with the knowledge that my criticism should have two contradictory yet simultaneous goals. It should seek theoretical enlightenment, Keeping in mind the inconvenience of art being categorised according to technique rather than content. It should also respect the work's enigma, its resistance to my language and that of theory; its otherness.
First things first. I would call Ms Lonfat a landscape artist, but only if someone with a big hole in the back of their hair was threatening to bore a bigger hole in my face. Of course, she does paint landscapes but she pushes the boundaries of landscape painting's traditional references and sources, working under the influence of imagination and fantasy but at the same time inspired by real places.
This explains why Ms Lonfat's act of painting is never predictable. Not undecided, but unforeseeable, in the same way we, despite our characterisations and traits we tag along, have our occasional bouts of actions which fall outside the limits of empathy and beyond our usual remit. In this way, Ms Lonfat seems to be more in tune with the present than those who seek a universal language of emotions, because her work is solitary, subjective, egocentric but not egoistic. And it reads like beautiful tales of isolation and longing, as if the paintings were an economy of loss, and Ms Lonfat was painting in order to recover moments that might otherwise be lost.
Her oils and mixed media on canvas and wood are neither nostalgic about the past, nor hopeful for the future. Instead, her colours are the here and now, inspired as the artist is by fleeting and transient reflections. They are a warm and inviting chaos, flickering with vibrant tonality and frequently leaping into the idyllic realm of the sublime. Supersaturated colours from an otherworldly palette bend into subtle, undulating curves which emit mysterious, glowing auras. They elbow for space until they escape the rigidity of geometry to acquire a spiritual vitality which opens up visions beyond the dominant order of categorisation and our anthropological need to place everything into editing systems. The accumulation of overlapping layers and colours are indifferent to the boundary of a frame: Ms Lonfat's-ravishing paintings are an emotional rather than a physical space, and they ricochet between abstraction and figuration that together dare the senses in full, frontal manner. Whereas for most of the time, Ms Lonfat's paintings are a horizon of colourful time that fast forwards to stare in your face, at others they are rather raw and even bare. A Collection o nine paintings collectively entitled The Dance are achieved with a reduced palette, silence and reflection. It is almost as if Ms Lonfat is working in the space between one thought and another. In contrast with her other paintings, they are quiet.
And if they could make a noise, this would initially seem grating, but would become weirdly soothing, like a bright metal object that is unexpectedly warm to the touch. But then, painting is not just about sound. Visually, The Dance paintings seem to stutter some new age fad that will not stand the test of time. But that's abstract art, you might argue. If that is the case, then this is an abstract piece of writing, so please don't judge me.
The Dance is the only paintings that have a title. The others do not have any wording to which the viewer can retire for comfort and explanation. Rather, the viewer is left to his and her own private fears and anxieties, which is after all, the same space from where Ms Lonfat's paintings come from.