Julia Jensen Revels in Blue

West Branch Gallery
Jun 29, 2015 2:46PM

Blue, in many cultures, is considered spiritual and used to elicit peace and calm. We look skyward for inspiration and gaze deep into pools of water in contemplation. Blue also conveys importance and confidence, without being somber or sinister. The painter Julia Jensen also revels in the color blue, as evidenced in her current show, Scenes Remembered, in the Upstairs Gallery at West Branch.

Green Composition
West Branch Gallery

Four of Jensen’s encaustics on panel and many of her oil paintings in this show are dense with blue. Blue No. 10, encaustic on panel, 9×10 inches, is a forest saturated in blue. The atmosphere is dripping with water, as if the scene were under water. The painting still appears wet; the wax and pigment thickly layered. The encaustic, Indigo Landscape, 6×6 inches, is softer and just as mysterious. The color is between blue and violet, calling to mind an evening storm, or perhaps a snowy late afternoon.

The intrigue of Jensen’s paintings is the space between representation and abstraction, which gives her paintings a quiet electricity. The encaustic texture is thick and organic, begging touch. There might be a strong dark line curving across the landscape, or sometimes the track of a dotted line, like in Composition with Gray and Blue, 6×6”, that could be footprints in the snow. “I want my work to have a sense of place, time, mood but also be more than a literal representation of specifics,” Jensen said. “The nature of a wax medium is that I have a wet painting. I can always reheat the work and be right back to a juicy, wet surface. This ability to manipulate infinitely gives me the feeling of working outside of time, or of entering a timeless realm.”

Composition with Gray and Blue
West Branch Gallery

Heat is used throughout the encaustic process, to liquefy the beeswax and dammar resin (crystallized tree sap). The medium can be used alone for its transparency and adhesive qualities or used with color pigments. Encaustic is a slow, difficult technique, but the paint can be built up in relief, and the wax gives a rich optical effect to the pigment, adding dimension and depth. Jensen says, “Because the wax can be melted again and again, it is almost as if the surface is never fully determined.”

Even though Jensen’s Between Blue and White is only six inches square, it is a tumult of motion. The painting swirls and collides, inviting many interpretations. It could be ice, mountains, a storm, fences, clouds, or reflections in water. “The encaustic process involves many crude layers that I can scrape through. There is a lot of putting on and taking off,” Jensen explained. “I know when I am done when I can’t find anything else to fix.”

Between Blue and White
West Branch Gallery

Julia Jensen uses many colors in her encaustic work, not just blue. In her series of nine 6×6 inch paintings, she uses yellow and ochre, pink and red, black and white. Blending all these colors with wax offers an antique quality to her work, forged through time, made for time; timeless. She said, “If I knew where I was going in the work, what would be the point? It’s important to me to always have questions and discoveries.” The same can be said for viewing her paintings.

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