It was a no-brainer for Jean-Pierre Jacquet when he heard about the Oil Painters of America paint-out in late September at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. It’s an industrial and, shall we say, gritty area. Just perfect.
Lead Image: Jean-Pierre Jacquet’s setup along the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn, New York
“A lot of plein air painters tend to favor good old nature and its beauties and shy away from nondescript urban settings,” says Jacquet. “I for one am drawn to elements that are the testaments of human presence, development, decay, anger, folly, and the like. Without tipping my hat to Marcel Duchamp and his followers who glorified mundane objects, I would still argue that a city intersection or rural crossroads or port loading docks or a traffic light and dangling phone lines are as appealing as a clearing near a lake in the Adirondacks. And one approach does not exclude the other.”
Jacquet says the subject matter also helps him work on parts of his painting process. “Since I am constantly striving, in terms of painting skill, to keep it loose and away from tight realism, I find settings like the Gowanus Canal a perfect venue to let loose,” he says. “And I like the fact that structures such as bridges or warehouses are in and of themselves interesting designs, almost from an abstract standpoint. Which brings me back full circle to plein air, as we very well know that the good plein air artists are the ones who bring to the fore the designs that are inherent in nature. Manet and his cohorts were not against painting those brand-new Victorian monsters of steel and glass, as in bridges and railway stations. Finally, and relating to the Gowanus, the area has water, trees, riverbanks, people, foliage, and sun. The land developers know it, and that is why the cleaning up of this area is barely one step ahead of its gentrification. At which point I will go out and look elsewhere for more depressed urban settings.”