Jeff Ferst, Dioscuri, oil painting on archival paper, 22" x 30"
American, b. 1955, playing from Tucson, AZ, USA
"Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter." - Paul Klee
Jeff Ferst paints contemporary landscape paintings of vibrant colors and heavy impasto paint as well as abstractions. Ferst’s paintings are energetic and celebratory, tactile and visual, grounded in reality and musical in feeling. Recently his work was singled out by the US State Department for its "musicality" in lightening up the residence of the US Ambassador to Dushanbe's residence "in a truly unexpected way". The ambassador called Ferst's painting "Fantasia" "The flagship piece of the exhibit." This is quite a statement when you consider the exhibit includes works by artists such as Johns, Rauschenberg and Indiana.
Ferst was born in the Bronx in New York City. As a child, he was involved in drawing and painting, and through his mother he was exposed to art in New York’s museums. Ferst went on to major in printmaking (specializing in serigraphs) at New York University, graduating with a BA in Fine Art. One of his printmaking instructors at NYU was also a textile designer, and while in school Ferst produced wall hangings of printed fabric, and created a series of portraits with stuffed fabric on canvas, which he sold through a New York gallery.
From his college days, a group of artists have remained important to Ferst, starting with the Impressionists, for their focus on intense color relationships. In Kandinsky and Klee, he found artists who combined an imaginative approach to abstraction with an inventive and personal feeling for color. In Cubism, Ferst discovered a model for the activated division of space, which he continues to explore in his current work. After college, Ferst traveled around Europe and the U.S., eventually settling in Canada, where he lived until 2012.
In 2005, Ferst experienced a personal and artistic turning point. He survived an episode of Sudden Cardiac Death, and after emerging from the trauma began to paint again. But the work that emerged was new to Ferst, completely abstract paintings with vibrant squares of color. The process of making this emerging work was, in the artist’s words, “natural and effortless.” These painting have continued to evolve over the next six years into the landscape paintings of today. The paintings vibrate with color, creating a moving and joyful visual experience, described in 2008 as “flagrantly flamboyant” by Tara Tassone in the Preston Catalogue. Ferst became interested in the Senoran Desert in 2009 and moved to Tucson, AZ to paint the desert and find new inspiration for his work.
Ferst has shown his painting in exhibitions across the U.S., Canada and overseas and is in numerous private and corporate collections. The artist is an Elected Member of the Canadian Society of Artists and The Colour & Form Society as well as the National Oil Painters Association.
Thoughts on the Telephone process
This was a very interesting and challenging process. To interpret another creative person’s work and try to weigh their intended purpose with my own personal experiences and emotions in the balance and come up with an appropriate response to the piece that others could evaluate and interpret for themselves. Even being an artist who works with emotions and experiences it was a wonderfully refreshing challenge and one I definitely enjoyed. I look forward to seeing the whole string and how each work fits into the chain and what each artist has added to the project. Very exciting. I would hope at some point the works can be gathered not just online but displayed as a whole. I think the real experience of viewers will be blown away with the exhibition.