Jennifer Gardiner is one of our contributing artists. We caught up with her about her artmaking and current exhibition – Moments Observed.
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Jennifer Gardiner, I am an artist, teacher and seek to be a mentor. Currently I am employed as a Visual Arts teacher at Wycliffe Christian School in the lower Blue Mountains of NSW.
I work with paint (watercolour and oils), printmaking (monoprinting, lino, rust, collagraph and etching. I also include cyanotype as a printing form), drawing in pastels, charcoal and pencil. I make handmade paper, collage and weave, create artist books and small scale sculptures. My delight is in the process of creating and the serendipity of what can happen.
Why do you do what you do?
God has given me eyes and a delight to create and enjoy art on many levels. I flourish in a creative environment, experiencing joy when others enjoy being creative. I look to see the grace and glory of God in value, colour, line, texture, pattern, shape and form.
What’s central to your work as an artist?
As an artist my focus is often in the detail and form of things around me. I love the landscape and incredible world God places before us and never tire of noticing his handiwork. As an artist I don’t see myself as projecting one way of seeing. If through encountering my art others look at the world through new fresh eyes or question deeper issues of life then that is wonderful. My focus has become very much about sharing with others and encouraging them to be creative along side my own artmaking practice.
Over time I return to similar themes and have worried less about where my own art sits within the wider artworld. I still feel insecure and unworthy but at the same time seek to be true to the words of Philippians 4:8.
Moments Observed is Jennifer’s current exhibition held that the Braemar Gallery, Springwood. Her exhibition is a beautiful example of faith expressed creatively and visually.
Jennifer’s Exhibition artist’s statement:
As a visual artist I experience my environment through, not only my eyes, but all my senses. I love to play with details and collect ephemera. On a personal level creating art is my act of worship, experiencing the grace and glory of God.
In my work for this exhibition, I was influenced by bush renewal after fire, as well as personal memories and history represented in vintage books, old doilies, and sheet music. When I observe destruction or decay in the world, I also see beauty. Artist and writer Makoto Fujimura wrote: “Beauty is a gratuitous gift of the creator God; it finds its source and its purpose in God’s character. God, out of his gratuitous love, created a world he did not need because he is an artist.”
Along with seeking to portray the beauty of our Blue Mountains landscape, my desire is to
encourage you, the viewer, to look carefully at all the detail in the landscape we see every day, as painter Degas said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”.
To live in the beautiful Manning Valley over the past months has been to live in a community rocked by devastation. The fires have brought loss of life, homes, livelihood and unfortunately a great loss of hope. But these fires were really just the tip of the iceberg – the climax of a far greater problem – this beautiful and once luscious valley is bone dry.
This year, rainy days were so few and far between that my two year old virtually forgot what rain was. And the little rain that did fall from the sky was never enough to soften the dry and cracking ground, bring the grass back to life, feed stock, fill the water tanks, fill the dams, nor fight fires – and the resulting devastation was the outcome.
How should we respond as people of faith? Is there hope? Should we too be rocked to despair in the face of seemingly overwhelming physical, emotional and environmental challenges?
Our thirst for renewing and lifegiving rain has reminded me many times of the powerful words Jesus said to a woman who came out in the heat of the day to collect water. In an interaction that broke all social and cultural boundaries, Jesus revealed himself as the one who would freely give living water to anyone who asked – water he claimed could well up to eternal life.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
As I collected burnt and blackened leaves on my lawn, which had blown in from the fire front, I thought of how well they symbolise the assault on hope. Blackened leaves have no hope of life, no hope of restoration – even if the heavens opened up and showered them with rain.
But what if they were touched by living water? What if they were touched by the hand of God?
While bleakness may feel like the situation in our valley and in our world, especially in the face of fires and drought, we have hope. We have hope that all things can be redeemed and restored. On a small scale this is seen when people lay down their lives for the safety of others or sit in the ashes of another’s pain.
Thanks for looking after what is most precious.
But we also have hope of restoration that is on a much grander scale. There is hope among the ashes because Jesus promised to bring restoration to the whole world, including his creation, and he has gone before us to show us that death, darkness and fire does not have the last say. The one who was once dead and nailed to the cross, became alive!
This Christmas we are in a state of emergency and as I write, a fire front is quickly approaching the place Zenos Media calls home (the beautiful Blue Mountains) and is currently burning in Lithgow, the place I will call home at the end of January. The fires seem inescapable.
The news that “the saviour has come” is a 2000 year old message, but it is a message we all need to hear this Christmas. No matter what lies before us, no matter how black the landscape, we have a God who gives life – living water in fact – through his Son and it does well up beyond the grave. We therefore have hope that he can bring beauty out of ashes and that he will make all things new again!
By Jenny Hanslow