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Jeff Ferst - Canadian Artist

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Jeff Ferst canadian artist

Jeff Ferst canadian artist

Jeff Ferst canadian artist

Media - Oil Paintings
Website -
Email - [email protected]


Jeff Ferst paints “geometrical landscapes”, essentially abstract canvases combining blocks of vivid color and curvilinear forms, out of which emerge elements of nature, buildings and the human form. Ferst’s paintings are energetic and celebratory, tactile and visual, grounded in reality and musical in feeling.

Ferst was born in the Bronx in New York City in 1955. 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 in 1976. 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 in 1978, where he has lived ever since. After running a food company and working in furniture design, he started producing a series of realistically painted still lifes and landscapes. These early works, while traditional in subject matter, had a contemporary edge and the vibrant palette that was to mark Ferst’s later paintings. In this period, he was exhibiting his work primarily in galleries in Ontario.

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 five years, becoming dense with curving arcs and interlocking forms. Faces and bodies, trees and animals, all became visible in the work. Recently, Ferst has been combining multiple panels to create a single painting. 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 has shown his painting in exhibitions at Art Mode in Ottawa, and Calgary, at the Saint John Art Center, Saint John, New Brunswick, and at many other venues. The artist lives and works in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.


Painting is philosophy made incarnate, a sense of the world embodied in visual and material form. Painting is a guide to how we might relate to the world, as if it were a newly discovered land.

In Jeff Ferst’s paintings, we encounter a world that just won’t stop whirling and scintillating. More precisely, it is made of many worlds, arcing nodes that intersect with other circles to create a myriad of connections. Each world is a kind of sphere of influence, a locus of energy, but never existing independently of the entire matrix. It is that interplay that gives Ferst’s paintings their distinctive, playful musicality.
Essential to the paintings’ structure are the blocks of color that compose the curving circuitry. These blocks, themselves often inset with concentric squares, act like the tesserae of mosaics, simultaneously creating and deconstructing form. And they give the paintings a jewel-like quality, as if reflecting light from its complex surface.

Ferst adopts as his own a visual language derived from early modernism, particularly from Cubism, and from its ecstatic variant, Orphism. But he paints gesturally with thick pigment, and with a personal passion and energy. The structure of his “geometric landscapes” is distinctly organic, form generating form with an intuitive inner logic. The image of the garden appears as a specific subject, and as an apt metaphor for Ferst’s art. He seems to be working with wild energies, and like a gardener shaping these impulses into a new state that is a melding of the natural and the aesthetic.

Within the complex fields that Ferst paints, images begin to appear. They are in a sense camouflaged, or encoded with the larger structure. An arc becomes a snake, a head appears in the overlapping of curves, faces peek from free-floating circles. Whole figures are apparent, and we become aware that Ferst’s paintings teem with people or at least the evocations of individuals. We start to see the spinning worlds of his paintings as intersecting pyches, memories and spirits.

Color plays a powerful role in these works, energizing and organizing our vision. Ferst’s hues are often intense, playing warm against cool, creating a pulsing visual experience. But he also allows olive, putty, rusty plum and other lower saturation colors to contrast with the higher key tones around them. The artist seems to be showing us something about an emotional undertow that coexists in the world along with the feelings of pleasure and joy.
John Mendelsohn

John Mendelsohn is a painter who has written articles and reviews on contemporary art for ArtNet, Cover Magazine, dArt International and The Jewish Week, as well as essays for exhibition catalogues. He teaches in the Studio Art Program at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He has contributed to the forthcoming book, A Book of Images: Reflections on Symbols, to be published by Taschen in conjunction with the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism at the C.G. Jung Institute, New York. | Contact Us | List Your Art | List Your Art Gallery | Site Map

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