CHAPEL OF MEDITATION

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Phenomena Himalayan 1971
acrylic on canvas 108-1/2 x 144 inches 275.6 x 365.8 cm

 
 

In the suite of the four paintings from the early 70s, Chapel of Meditation, Jenkins intended the works to hang in any configuration we again see the veiled mists found in so much of his art. The paintings are large, but only two have the same dimensions. In Phenomena Himalayan (1971), the painting's complexity is very evident. A large expanse of filigree rises out of a broad, horizontal blue band that serves as a ground. Beneath the band, along the bottom of the painting, are several charcoal-colored forms seen as rising upward. The center has a passage of pure white, above which we see diaphanous veils of blue, gray and green. Phenomena Himalayan is an intricately rendered work of art that challenges us with its complexities of form and feeling. Phenomena Entrance Portal (1973), the diptych that is relatively restrained on the left half but densely colorful on the right, implies a threshold to be opened along the line separating the two parts. To the left, organic shapes in white seem to rise upward, with the white being carved into, on the top and the right, by darker colors. On the right half, we find a feather-like vermillion shape in the middle, surrounded by roughly edged colors of all sorts: vertical columns of indigo blue, white, green and blue-black.

 
 

 

Phenomena Chapel White 1972
acrylic on canvas diptych 98 x 85 inches 226 x 215.9 cm

 
 

The other two paintings are just as compelling as those described above. Phenomena Chapel White (1972), another diptych, ventures forth two organic panels that look like columns, vertically aligned, possessing a touch of color underneath the white, and presenting lines and effects that must have been completed with Jenkins' ivory knife. This panel's left side is most heavily painted on the upper half and middle; a series of feathery lines extend on the right side of the painted passage. On the right panel is a white post that is straight and erect, with grisaille elements affixed to the shaft at its lowest point. Together, the two columns are compellingly forceful, even though they are separate from each other. Finally, the single canvas titled Phenomena Shell Sound (1973) creates two white organic shapes, with a hint of green and red beneath, that look attached along their shared center. If sound could be corralled by an image, one feels that this is the way it would become visible. Here Jenkins is formally at his most abstract, being guided by a synesthesia that substitutes a nonobjective image for a category of the senses that is inherently difficult to visualize. A mysticism of the senses is in fact brought forth in these paintings by Jenkins, who uses the nonrepresentational to demonstrate the priority of the metaphysical in life, as well as art.

 
 
Phenomena Entrance Portal 1973
acrylic on canvas diptych 89 x 85 inches 226 x 215.9 cm
   
 
Phenomena Chapel Shell Sound 1973
acrylic on canvas 81 x 64 inches 205.7 x 162.6 cm
   
 

The Chapel of Meditation paintings thus convey an intention of high seriousness that argues for a spiritual life in ways that impart knowledge that lies beyond the abilities of words and is understood by silent intuition. In a way, it is impossible to judge the intention of Jenkins' works, which either enclose you within the eloquence of their forms or send you on your way. His pictures are truly powerful in their ongoing function to convey what cannot be heard or seen. The four paintings here that make up a specific aspect of Jenkins' contemplative vision, cannot be called empty oratory; instead, their tenacious pursuit of the artist's vision should be read as a challenge to us all: to see with more than our actual eyes. His journey became a continuous attempt to convey to us another realm, one rooted in archetypes, Asian philosophy and the unknown. Behind his efforts is the sense that the ego-bound self, as Westerners know it, is something quite precarious, even unstable when compared to a perception that leads beyond the senses. To dwell in such a place requires the skills of repeated meditation rather than the assertions of identity. In consequence, it is clear that Jenkins understood his calling as a painter of pictures that are neither normative nor expressionist in the usual manner. Instead, they reiterate something that is likely more hopeful: a view of life and art meant to be expanded, rather than diminished in any way.

Jonathan Goodman
Excerpt from his essay, Thresholds of Color, exhibition catalogue published by Robert Miller Gallery,
New York, November 6 - December 20, 2014.

 

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