Traversing the Abstract

Abstract artist Jason Travers debuts his new collection in the Soeffker Gallery.

Jason Travers speaks about his work, now being displayed at the Soeffker Gallery in Drew Fine Arts. Pictured here is

Photo by Kristina Stuntebeck

Jason Travers speaks about his work, now being displayed at the Soeffker Gallery in Drew Fine Arts. Pictured here is “Illusion (Corot’s Field).”

Kristina Stuntebeck, Managing Editor

A new set of paintings has graced the walls of Hamline’s Soeffker Gallery, located in Drew Fine Arts.The work on display was created by artist Jason Travers, who traveled from Rhode Island to Saint Paul for the gallery opening.

Travers began as a landscape painter, but saw them as a replication of something outside of himself, like a window that’s hung on a wall. His newer paintings take six months to a year to complete, and are meant to be objects in themselves, evoking emotions and personal interpretations rather than depicting a realistic scene. He uses two canvases instead of one to help get the idea across – canvases that both attract and repel, are separate but also the same.

“I didn’t intend to paint this way. I’ve tried to make paintings with just one panel – that would be easier- but I need the tension of having two…or three panels,” Travers said.

Travers discusses one of his multi-panel paintings with Hamline art students at his exhibition's opening. The work is comprised of an original canvas and a relative's floral painting, which he repurposed to channel the style of artist Berthe Morisot and create an internal dialogue.
Photo by Kristina Stuntebeck
Travers discusses one of his multi-panel paintings with Hamline art students at his exhibition’s opening. The work is comprised of an original canvas and a relative’s floral painting, which he repurposed to channel the style of artist Berthe Morisot and create an internal dialogue.

He said he prefers to bounce between multiple paintings at once, rather than be confined to working on one piece at a time. He considers himself a very formal painter, yet he seeks to tell a story with his work. This means he needs to find a balance when painting that generally leads to a personal dialogue developing between him and the piece. He said inspiration comes as he paints because his attempts to create based on a pre-conceived idea have failed.

“The adventure begins as soon as the brush touches the canvas,” Travers said. “They have to be new, they have to be fresh, and they have to be weird.”

Travers still paints landscapes for his private collection, but his connection with the subject can still be seen in his new work when it comes to colors. He begins with a gray base coat and adds warmer or cooler colors, depending on the mood he wants to represent.

“I still feel that when I choose colors…they evoke something specific. All my colors always come from natural experiences and sensory experiences,” Travers said.

Travers' painting "Trickster" is meant to represent the mathematical theory of the golden rectangle, where the proportion must be 1.618...etc. times bigger in one direction than the other side.
Photo by Kristina Stuntebeck
Travers’ painting “Trickster” is meant to represent the mathematical theory of the golden rectangle, where the proportion must be 1.618…etc. times bigger in one direction than the other side.

John-Mark Schlink, an art professor who is the Director of Exhibitions and overseer of permanent exhibitions, explained why Traver’s exhibition was chosen.

“Every year, we’re going to have at least one artist coming in to show their work and talk about their work,” Schlink said. “This year, we wanted to choose a painter. Andrew’s the painter here, so I let him decide and he chose Jason.”

Painting and drawing professor Andrew Wykes said Travers is an old friend. He said they went to grad school together and he knew Travers was still working, so he decided to extend the invitation over the phone. Travers agreed, had his paintings ready by September and flew over for the grand opening, Wykes said.

Travers added that he initially declined the offer because he didn’t know how to go about it, but eventually figured out how to package and ship his paintings here so he could take advantage of the great opportunity.

One student who came to appreciate the collection was Fletcher Blaschko, a sophomore and Digital Media Arts major. He said he enjoyed listening to what the artist had to say, but wasn’t particularly fond of how the paintings looked.

“Call me old fashioned, but I still believe artists should display some level of classical form. I like art that represents something,” Blaschko said.

Blaschko said he respects the artist’s decisions and the physical aspect is just personal preference. He said he understands that a lot of work went into their creation.

“Though it doesn’t seem like it takes a lot of talent, it’s impressive. He was more concerned about the interaction of colors and forms over representing something.” Blaschko said. “The thought is the main point behind the process. The pieces are strictly personal between you and the piece…so each person has their own view of the piece. I may not ‘get’ modern art, but I can still appreciate it.”

Schlink said there will be more opportunities for students to see different artists’ work coming up and encourages students to visit the gallery.

“I think it’s important that people come look at the work, if they’re interested. We’re bringing in a lot of work for the students and not just the art students – for students in general,” Schlink said. “We have some big exhibitions coming in the future. We have some good things in the works.”