Bill Jensen: Painting is a prayer

Contributed by Katelynn Mills / One can never hide who they are in their work – I’ve always known and felt that painting is a direct extension of the artist’s soul. Be the individual a shallow, fabulous Warholian, or a deep and tortured Rothkoan, or anyone in between, a (wo)man’s capacity is marked by their expression. Painting is a meditative diffusion of the ego, which allows something outside the artist, something much greater, to enter. It’s a white-hot focus of energy that cannot afford distraction. But mostly what painting is, is a yearning for the impossible union of spirit and physical matter – an insatiable prayer. A union is to be had in the completion of a picture, a provisional answer to our prayer. A form which demands the viewer to believe the illusion and content. But because time will not afford us the solace of everlasting perfection, the artist is thrown right back into the search for meaning. In lustful agony, our Greek ancestor, Diogenes asked “would to heaven that it were enough to rub one’s stomach in order to allay one’s hunger?” No. As long as there are people, painting, in all its decadence, will serve as essential means to meaning and truth for those who desire. One such artist who can be noted by his passion in his spiritual quest is Bill Jensen.

[Image at top: Bill Jensen, Message, 2011-14, oil on linen, 40 x 50 inches.]

 Bill Jensen, Transgressions, 2011-14, oil on linen, triptych, 55.5 x 105 inches.
Bill Jensen, Loom of Origins, 2014-2015, oil on linen, triptych, 62 x 123 inches.

Upon viewing his work, which was recently on view at the Cheim & Read, I was immediately confronted by a humble sense of levity. Jensen displays bursts of orgasmic landscapes in his Loom of Origins (Oil on linen triptych, 62 x 123 1/2 inches overall), in which color and plasticity move the viewer through the piece like molten lava. Double Stillness (Oil on linen diptych 50 x 86 inches overall) vibrates in and out of figuration as line and form appear and disappear in the white, atmospheric surface; it’s about contemplation, emergence, and reconsideration.

 Bill Jensen, Double Stillness, 2014-15, oil on linen, diptych, 50 x 86 inches.

He plays with the idea of indeterminacy by allowing marks from used cups of paint to stain his canvas in Message and shows evidence of human touch with his finger smudges which pull across he surface. Jensen’s black on black compositions, such as End of the Ordinary Realm, are highly sensitive pieces that say something about the immensity and intimacy of the human experience. The air in these dark paintings is thick, more like water – affecting an engulfing experience. One cannot help but feel alone yet surrounded in this piece.

 Bill Jensen, End of the Ordinary Realm (Huangshan Mountain), 2013-14, oil on linen, 61 x 41 inches.

Overall, Bill Jensen’s work communicates something profound about the union of spirit and physical being. He addresses the heart of humanity in his process and reminds us how to stay in touch with ourselves in a society which encourages indulging in superficial pursuits and distractions. It’s a prayer.

Bill Jensen: Transgressions,” Cheim & Read, Chelsea, New York, NY. April 9- May 9, 2015.

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Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. For permission to use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

Two Coats of Paint is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To use content beyond the scope of this license, permission is required.

1 thought on “Bill Jensen: Painting is a prayer”

  1. He is unique in the realm of contemporary abstractionists in not deconstructing his sources.He reminds me of Levi-Strauss's notion of the bricoleur in a primitive tribe who scavenges from many disparate sources to concoct a present either mythically or technologically.In the end the bricoleur is grateful for the resources at hand as is Jensen.

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