The egalitarianism of material is a compelling aspect of Nachtigall’s work. In the past the artist has used what one could call unorthodox measures to continue creating and working on his artistic practice. When money was tight the artist would dumpster dive for supplies and materials. As he stated in an interview, Nachtigall now uses many different paints in his work but continues to engage in the money saving skills he gained in his youth. Each painting is layered in various applications from spray paint and airbrush to acrylic and latex, texturized with sand or ash. The artist appreciates the fact that acrylic paint is in essence plastic, inexpensive and accessible to everyone.
Many of the paintings in BARRHEAD SUPERSONIC are populated by cavorting animals such as deer and bears, and old models of cars and pickup trucks – both familiar sights in rural prairie landscapes. The paintings appear flat as Nachtigall does not employ 3D perspective. The objects, animals and trees are almost exclusively depicted in profile. This lends a graphic quality to the paintings recalling the work of artists such as Keith Haring, while the influence of great masters such as Gauguin, Basquiat and Guston are notable in his treatment of subject matter, objects and painted plane. Much of his work also acts as a reaction to his formal training as a printmaker, an incredibly rigorous art form. By contrast, in his painting practice Nachtigall has found the freedom to play, explore and retain the mistakes of the process in turn representing the imperfection of life.
It is the vibrant palette of hot pink, bright yellow and vivid greens, blues and orange tones that sets the work apart from the muted colours of a typical prairie landscape. In Your Dogs’ Not Smart Like Me, an orange and yellow dog or wolf sits in a stand of bright green and yellow trees among scattered empty bottles and an old overturned tin. The animal looks on with joy as if having just caused some mischief. Another work In A Big Country A Dream Stays With You features three black bears, yellow eyes and smiles shimmering against the black of their faces. The bears swing their arms as if dancing in the back of a light blue pickup. The whimsy present brings an element of fantasy to the work. An adult black bear and cub are seen in a hot pink forest in Death of a Plein Air Painter extending towards them from the edge of the canvas are a pair of human legs, one boot missing from a foot. The scenes are ominous yet playful.
Nachtigall has dedicated his artistic career to discovering a way to translate language through the medium of paint and the act of painting. In many ways, his work is narrative based asking the viewer to conjure a story and travel into the place within the paintings, real or imagined. BARRHEAD SUPERSONIC is his response to reacclimatizing to Saskatchewan, translating his own experience of living in the prairie province and the beauty in the everyday junk of his surroundings.
–Maeve Hanna / art writer
Jeff Nachtigall was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and over the past number of years has split his time between Toronto, Montreal and Regina. Nachtigall received his BFA from the University of Regina and further continued his studies at the Illinois State University. Nachtigall’s work is included in a number of permanent collections including the Saskatchewan Arts Board, RBC Art Collection, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Kenderdine Art Gallery, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Nordstrom Corporate Art Collection (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto & Austin, TX) and many other private corporate collections across North America. Art residencies have taken him to the Banff Centre, Toronto Island, Dominican Republic, Montreal, New Orleans, and upstate New York.
Jeff Nachtigall on his process /
My practice affords me the opportunity to be in a state of constant play. The studio environment constitutes the sandbox where blank surfaces and raw materials catapult me into realms of perpetual exploration. This quixotic journey is furthered with every mark made, each revealing another path suitable for my compulsive navigation.
After a number of years in Toronto and Montreal I found myself back in Saskatchewan. My reintroduction to rural life occurred a year ago when I left Regina and moved to a three-season cabin on Last Mountain Lake. Here I find myself surrounded by a way of life that is at once familiar and exotic. Each day I trek across a frozen lake to a small studio in an abandoned building. A diesel generator supplies electricity and a wood stove provides warmth. I paint from dawn until dusk. I travel as the light allows, avoiding the dark and the cold. Coyotes howling, shadows stretching and my snowshoes chiming against the ice like dinner bells.
Life in a Pandemic has forced all of us inwards both physically and mentally. This increased isolation brings with it numerous challenges, but there is also an interesting parity that comes with lockdowns and social distancing. Suddenly there aren’t any benefits to living in densely populated urban centers that I had gravitated towards. A lifestyle that afforded one access to opportunities has been hampered by closures… there’s no advantage of living in downtown Montreal or Toronto when you can’t meet gallerists and curators or other artists or attend artist talks or go to openings. Being part of “The Scene” has moved online… and there is no longer any benefit that comes with place… geography doesn’t matter, and a cabin in Saskatchewan is no longer isolated… at least not in the same way it was before the pandemic.
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