THE ARTIST’S BOSTON GALLERY DEBUT
ARTIST TALK CO-PRESENTED BY BROOKLINE BOOKSMITH ON JUNE 5
Praise Shadows Art Gallery is pleased to announce the Boston exhibition debut of Oliver Jeffers, the internationally renowned artist and picture book author based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Brooklyn, New York. Titled The Night in Bloom, the exhibition features a suite of new paintings, with one work more than seven feet wide, that explode the night sky into floral bouquets. On view June 3 through July 10, it coincides with the commission Universes for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade, which also opens to the public on June 3.
The Night in Bloom reflects the artist’s new approach to a longstanding theme in his work: perspective within the universe. By pairing differing objects—burning stars and swirling cosmos, with a mundane anchor to earth—he juxtaposes the sublime vastness of our skies with the pedestrian. This body of work presents a new direction for Jeffers, namely that the visual style leans more than ever into the distinctive world of the paintings created for his books. His choice of medium is also representative of a new direction. For the first time in his fine art practice, he uses acrylic paint rather than oil, and the majority of the works are on panel instead of canvas. Jeffers will also introduce two new interactive “mechanical paintings” that expose the brilliant stars by way of an old-fashioned lever activated by the viewer.
According to Jeffers: “The worlds beyond our world, whose clues only reveal themselves when the light of our day grows low enough to view the dramatic and brilliantly colorful heavens after dusk, suggest a vastness we cannot possibly comprehend above our heads. These are the same heads that grow bored of looking for what to play on the radio, wonder when our internet purchase will arrive, or what activity we will use to pass the time this weekend. Perhaps there is more to this business of being alive than we give ourselves time (and perspective) to enjoy.”
The ten works featured in The Night in Bloom include Universes, an acrylic painting on panel, which Jeffers began working on one year ago and finished upon receiving the Gardner Museum commission.The painting will be on view at Praise Shadows, while nearby at the Gardner, Universes, a 36 foot public artwork on the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Facade spans the height of the museum’s exterior on Evans Way for all of Boston to enjoy. Universes depicts a woman by the window at home, deeply engrossed in a storybook. Outside, the blue night reaches up and out of the frame. The glow from her window is bright and warm, and above her the vast blue cosmos extends out to planets, stars, comets, and beyond. Universes: Oliver Jeffers at the Gardner is part of a suite of summer exhibitions celebrating the literary, performing, and visual arts.
A special public program and Artist Talk co-presented by Praise Shadows and Brookline Booksmith will take place at the Coolidge Corner Theatre (across the street from the gallery) on Sunday, June 5 at 12 pm, with private access to the gallery exhibition from 10:30 to 11:30 am for ticket holders. Registration here.
The paintings in The Night in Bloom are related to a large public art initiative by Jeffers called Our Place in Space, a 9 km long walkable sculpture trail exhibited in multiple locations throughout the United Kingdom this year. It features a scale model of our solar system where the Sun is 3 meters wide, the Earth, 500 meters away is the size of a ping pong ball, and Pluto, 8.5 km further still, is the size of a match head. The distance of our near cosmos laid out in this way encourages us to look back on humanity from a vast distance and question the way in which humans divide ourselves and squabble over different stories and identities on the only bit of dry land known to harbor human life in all of the Universe.
About the Artist
Oliver Jeffers is a visual artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance and sculpture. Curiosity, perspective, the power of storytelling, and humor are underlying themes throughout Oliver’s practice. While investigating the ways the human mind understands its world, and place within that world, his work also functions as comic relief in the face of futility.
Current directions for his art-making include the imaginary lines across land and imaginary lines in the sky. With the former, Jeffers–with a deep suspicion of Nationalism, Patriotism and Isolationism, born from growing up with the political and national uncertainty of a turbulent Belfast in the 1970s and 80s–picks apart the powerful story of human made borders, of how people treat other people. With the latter, Jeffers uses the construct of star constellations to take a longer lens approach to humanity’s story. With the egotism that was perhaps integral to the success of human civilization, Jeffers art looks at how we often forget our place in a grander cosmos- that the pictures we created for arrangements of stars in a night sky only make sense from this narrow perspective of Earth. But most importantly, given a seeming inability for people to comprehend the singularity of our Planet Earth, Jeffers tries to show, tell, and remind that this is the most urgent story humanity needs to rally around.
Image: (top) Oliver Jeffers, Universes, 2022, acrylic on panel, 40″x30″, image courtesy the artist.