Jan 172008
 

Jeanne Illenye is an experienced, “predominantly self-taught artist” from Michigan, USA. She creates both small and large canvases presented at her website and blog, and covers a variety of themes within the still life genre. Arguably, the most fascinating subject she explores is the series on books and watches: they are particularly appealing to me as they relate to the painter’s lateral artistic pursuits, of which there are quite a few, as you may learn from some of her blog posts. But there is one salient feature that distinguishes her artwork as a whole, and in effect makes up one of the essentials of her style: it is the uncommon, even quaint, touch of serenity and poise that permeates every piece and eventually overflows to gently sweep the viewer along.

“My paintings isolate a particular moment in time” — the artist claims, and one would have no choice but to agree; however, they do not just “isolate:” I like to think that they actually freeze time, permitting the viewer to witness the process and imprint it in their visual memory. Every painting becomes a record of its subject, a kind of a miniature visual chronicle, to be more precise. Thus, a moment may last anything from a few seconds to a few hours (and when we think of it, “moment” is indeed a very fluid term) — depending on the beholder’s inner clock and the theme. The intentional (as well as refined and aesthetically winning) references to decay and disintegration further elaborate the theme of time.

I would like to discuss one of the most explored subjects by the artist, the florals. In some ways, Jeanne Illenye’s floral pieces are the least characteristic of her style. The extreme close ups deviate from the pattern of bouquets presented at a distance so calm we ignore it; here the proximity becomes one of the active principles of the composition, one to be reckoned with, rather than dismissed as an auxiliary technical/geometrical aspect to the painting as a whole. Such proximity inevitably invites close inspection, analysis and conclusion making — every stage being inherently suffused with considerable intensity. The dark, often black backgrounds increase the tension even further.

Still, it is important to emphasize that these frictions occur within the definitive framework of global calm and control, being unable to break through and establish some kind of chaos. Though, I must admit, sometimes it feels pretty close to the verge — just another addition to that tension, this time from the aspect of formal evaluation. Overall, the florals exposed with the zoom in (botanical) effect, and the more serene ones fill in the niche to its utmost limits. The artist proves her mastery of the field by exhibiting superb technical execution, as well as by the effortless transition from one sub-genre to another, — eliciting admiration for both.

  4 Responses to “Jeanne Illenye”

  1. Thank you Elijah, for the honor of having my work reviewed by you today with such a particularly insightful eye and sensitivity. While my still life work varies in subject from formal, elaborate fruit and floral paintings to small, more contemporary subjects and presentations, I will direct my commentary toward my floral works in this forum as you so kindly focused on those in your review.

    Aside from the obvious inspiration from the Dutch masters, employing their basic compositional structure, the Hogarth curve—named for William Hogarth (1697-1764) who defined the reverse S as the “line of beauty”—in various proportions in my larger florals has been a natural, intuitive process. What takes more significant effort and the point on which Elijah commented, is the minute structuring of details as they interact with one another to generate tension therefore interest on a more abstract level, i.e., how a petal is curled and shadows the neighboring leaf and the shape and color of those shadows, etc. What makes this aspect particularly challenging for me is the fact that I have never had the luxury of painting from a large floral arrangement in my studio. Rather, I resort primarily to memory and snippets of photographs from my garden from which details are refreshed in my mind. Both the idea and structure of a painting almost come to fruition simultaneously as I briefly stare at the blank canvas, and then evolve rapidly as I begin a raw, unplanned underpainting. This process is the most exciting for me as it requires maximum creative force and foresight. Often I can make such significant progress toward fulfilling my vision in that first sitting, that I’m satiated for quite some time. The second stage contrasts significantly with the first as it requires a great deal more perseverance with the deliberate calculation and placement of every detail on an abstract level while at once remaining sympathetic to the knowledge of a flower’s actual appearance. This is what I consider to be most challenging and often exhaustive stage, persisting over as much as eight weeks. Once the final stage is reached I begin to have fun again. This is where I add legs dangling from a hovering bee and add an ethereal quality to the wings of a butterfly, or permit light to softly sift through a petal or reflect through a dewdrop onto a surface…it’s what makes the painting begin to feel magical to me…and perhaps if I’m successful, hopefully for you, too!

    It is no surprise that Elijah, with his sensitivity to detail and broad intellectual knowledge of art and artist’s practices, as well as a seemingly effortless poetic prowess, has been able to very nearly identify my process through intense study of my paintings as evidenced in his current review. Once again, I wish to thank Elijah for taking the time to delve into my work and provide what resulted in a very sympathetic review, that only one with the heart of an artist could compose. Thank you, Jeanne Illenye

  2. Jeanne, I’d like to thank you for the compliments and for this wonderful and poignant essay. It sheds light on your artistic process and makes it sound for what it really is: a very complex, fascinating, highly creative and rewarding experience.

    I think it was Auden who said that “art critique should incline towards praise” — and I agree completely, one of the reasons being that I wouldn’t be able to suggest improvements for possible flaws, as I lack any training in painting. So, I focus on the best parts and try to stick to interpretation and things that strike me as particularly beautiful.

    …And with this article I suddenly felt how it is to be on the side of the critiqued person — very pleasing, but also strange. I think I could get used to this :). Thank you again for taking the time to write this great article, it is a must read that completes the picture, and to which I will link in my next review, along with the photo of your studio.

    Elijah

  3. I JUST FOUND ALOT OF PAGES ABOUT YOU THAT I HAVE NOT SEEN. FUNNY, I FEEL LIKE I LEARNED MOST OF WHAT I ALREADY THOUGHT ABOUT YOU JUST BY STUDING YOUR WORKS.
    OF COURSE YOU AMAZE ME EVEN MORE THAN YESTERDAY AND I THOUGHT I’D TELL YOU THAT I AM VERY PROUD TO OWN A PIECE OR TWO BY YOU.
    THANKS SO MUCH FOR TOUCHING MY LIFE AND THAT OF OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE SO FORTUNATE TO COME ACROSS YOUR PAINTINGS.
    ANNE

  4. Thank you SOO much, Anne, for your lovely compliments! It has always been a joy creating my paintings and savoriting the spiritual aspect of that process, but most of all it’s been a thrill to experience the life around us which is my incessant inspiration! Further, it is people like you who appreciate all the years of practicing and nurturing all the technical aspects of my work and a lifetime of learning to “see” that makes sharing my paintings such a rewarding experience on so many levels. Your kind words are indeed heartfelt.
    Jeanne

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