May 17 – Jul 6, 2019

Jaq Chartier



               In her first Robischon Gallery solo exhibition, Seattle-based artist Jaq Chartier presents “SunTests”, the artist’s abstract, process-oriented paintings and newly editioned works exploring the mercuriality of materials.  Chartier has long taken her inspiration from scientific and nature-based phenomenon using a methodical process with artist’s materials, such as inks and dyes, oil and acrylic paints, resin, stains and more. In a painstaking approach, the resulting vivid, patterned and abstract compositions are also a record of Chartier’s specific observations of the material world, as it relates to time and transformation. Her thought process is evidence of an artist engaged in a kind of hybrid artistic-scientific practice – on the surface, her work is seemingly more akin to laboratory trials than the methods of a traditional painter. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Chartier’s full engagement with her materials research as an approach to art making, manifested and masterfully evolved as the art itself carried by its complex beauty, rhythmic line and potential for meaning. 

In all of the artist’s works, such as in the Green/Blue Chart diptych currently on view, it’s how the various colors like the deep cobalt blue, intense turquoise or vivid green are achieved and revealed that is surprising. Chartier’s meticulous series of steps are exposed, not hidden, as indicated by the visible, penciled notations found on side of Green/Blue Chart or in the case of others, shown in a column on the face of the painting. Her practice is best described by the artist herself as Chartier states: “I love collecting images from chromatography, a lab technique for the separation of mixtures, and DNA gel electrophoresis as well as things seen under the microscope and under the sea. Science keeps me inspired by the wondrous. And like a scientist, I call my paintings “tests” because they’re actual explorations of the phenomena of materials. I chart the intimate interactions between my materials and make notes directly on the paintings to help me track what’s happening.

I like to set up tension between a minimal, stripped-down aesthetic and effusive lush color — a type of color that suggests something outside of our ordinary, everyday world. Beautiful, but also sort of bizarre – inflamed, suggestive of energies that we can’t see. Instead of paint, I use my own custom formulas of deeply saturated inks, stains and dyes. Such colors can do things paint can’t do – bleed, shift, and migrate through other layers of paint, or change color, or even completely disappear. Even after years of study, I’m still intrigued by their hidden chemistries.

Like most painters I was taught to use archival materials and “proper” painting techniques. This practice was the original motivation behind a group of SunTest series works. They started as a way of sorting out fugitive colors from those that are stable and lightfast. But instead of discarding those fragile colors, I’ve found myself attracted to them – drawn by the additional layer of complexity that such changes suggest and by the very notion of impermanence. Now I can design colors to shift in hue or gradually disappear while others remain permanent. Time is not a dimension people usually think of for paintings. Even after you know about the testing process underpinning my work it’s tempting to view the paintings as static, frozen moments or phenomena captured in the acrylic film like bugs in amber. But, they’re actually slow-motion performances changing over time as the materials continue to interact.”

Building on the notion of temporality within her process, Chartier’s recent work explores the development of a new technique for the artist, through the use of photography and print. The approach is well-suited to Chartier’s “SunTest” series which specifically documents the daily changes within a group of paintings created with her most fugitive, light sensitive colors. The artist initially exposes select paintings to sunlight in her studio windows for months. She digitally scans the paintings daily to capture the fleeting moments as the images evolve and disintegrate. She states, “I view each scan as essentially, a still frame in a time-lapse movie.” The final artworks are metal prints using a dye sublimation on aluminum process, where dyes on transfer paper turn into a gas at high heat and then solidify into the treated aluminum so that the digital images are permanently infused into the metal surface. Shifting colors on the surface of Suntest #3 labeled C. Turkish Red, L. Peacock, T. T. Honey Amber and L. Hyacinth, offer up lavish images of nature. At the same time, the series of gene-like patterns makes visible the knowledge of basic, scientific underpinnings presented as a demonstration of a liminal threshold. Chartier notes, “Like photos of things we have lost, the prints commemorate the ephemeral life of paintings that no longer exist, moments witnessed only by me.” Visually vibrant and densely layered with meaning, the work of Jaq Chartier resides at a nexus of discovery, equal parts careful scientific observation and sensitive visual transmutation.  Their overt materiality and heightened sense of transient beauty are poetic reminders of the vulnerability of art and the brevity of life as well.


Jaq Chartier attended Syracuse University for film, and then obtained her BFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her MFA in painting from the University of Washington, Seattle. She was a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award nominee, a Creative Capital Grant finalist, and a finalist for the 2011 Contemporary Northwest Art Award at the Portland Art Museum. Her awards include an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship, a Purchase Award from the Portable Works Collection of Seattle Public Utilities, and a PONCHO Special Recognition Award from the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Committee. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Tacoma Art Museum, Oregon State University in Corvallis, the Schwartz Art Collection at the Harvard Business School, Microsoft, and The Allen Institute, along with additional collections both public and private. Chartier’s paintings have been featured in major exhibitions including: “Genipulation: Genetic Engineering and Manipulation in Contemporary Art,” at CentrePasqueArt, Kunsthaus Centre d’art, Biel Bienne, Switzerland; “Genesis – Die Kunst der Schöpfung (The Art of Creation),” at Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland; “Diagnose [Art]: Contemporary Art Reflecting Medicine,” at the Kunst-Museum Ahlen, Germany; and “Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics,” which traveled from the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, to the Berkeley Art Museum, Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art