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Winnipeg Artist Showcased at Gallery Shop

WINNIPEG, MB. – The works of Winnipeg contemporary painter, Jeff Chester, will be showcased at The Gallery Shop until July 9th.

Chester show, This Curious Object, features 14 oil paintings all available for purchase. The paintings feature variations of a lone figure within a square format, that one might typically see in a contemporary selfie. “My aim is to pose questions concerning identity and contemporary portraiture,” explains Chester. “I have tried to walk a line between illustration and photorealist painting. Through this mixing of styles I am alluding to the role of storytelling in the creation of our identities and lived realities.”

What can we know about someone from a selfie they post on social media? Has the age of the selfie changed the function of portraiture in contemporary society? Do artists still try to capture the “essence” of a person’s personality in portrait paintings? These are some of the questions that Chester is asking with his latest series of paintings.

“The Gallery Shop is a big fan of Jeff Chester and we couldn’t be happier to host this solo exhibition,” states Sherri Van Went, WAG Manager of Retails Operations. “We love how his work blends portraits and today’s social media selfie, something we can all relate to.”

Chester refers to Italian Renaissance portraiture by using the time-honored motif of a woman in a landscape. This is to create a contrast between the function of these earlier paintings and the goals of contemporary portraiture. Chester explains that the figures appearing in the work are based off of images of his wife. The repetition of the same face allows her to disappear into anonymity and become a stand in for the idea of a nonspecific person. At the same time, Chester says, “It allows me a chance to state my own view that love and human connection is of paramount importance. Who we are is entangled fundamentally with our relationships to others.”

Chester is the son of an Air Force Pilot and subsequently moved about every three years as a kid. Growing up, he lived everywhere from P.E.I. to Vancouver Island and many places in between, including several years in Winnipeg as a teenager. This series of paintings focus on self-identity, something that Chester himself struggled with in his adolescence as he worked to call different places home and was perpetually the new kid trying to fit in. “Growing up I think most adolescents try on many different identities as they work to figure out who they are and who they want to become.” Social media and the contemporary selfie can potentially be a window into this image and identity struggle as well, for adolescents and adults alike.

While in university, identity in the existentialist sense also became very pronounced for Chester as he suffered from a series of anxiety attacks. He struggled with meaning and motivation but found solace by turning his attention to the practice of painting and the pursuit of his fine arts degree.

Despite living all across the country, Chester returned to Winnipeg in 2009 and married a woman he had met here 20 years prior. They and their children call Winnipeg home. The paintings within This Curious Object pose questions about self-identity but they also reveal that Chester has undoubtedly established his own artistic identity.

Staff, MyToba News

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