_ The Stories of Shades exhibition text for Jennifer Carvalho, 2018
These are the stories of shades; A shadow occurs when light is blocked by something opaque resulting in a
dark column of shade in its wake. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, a flattened
but detailed outline that becomes visible when described on the next available surface1. A branch sits next
to a tree trunk bearing its own outline, resulting in an ontological uncertainty for the branch. Unlike the
printing process, the closeness of object and shadow means that what is lost in translation is often clearly
visible through comparison. The shadow is a literal description of what is lost and gained in replication,
refinement and exclusion; the same but different. In Jennifer Carvalho's paintings the constant fluttering
and change of light on described surfaces produces a system of exchange and interdependence.
Underneath the forest ceiling, leaves and branches filter light, the arms of trees reach sideways, brushing,
scratching, and covering surfaces beside and below. Each is supported and entangled in a symbiotic
relationship with its environment, simultaneously protected and compromised by its nearest neighbours.
The environments in her paintings are shelters for mossy growth, where dry swamp puddles give way to
lichen growing over top of fallen branches. Every part lives and grows in direct relationship to another
and that closeness is demanded; immersion a necessary part of experience.
These are the stories of shades; The landscapes in Carvalho's paintings depict forests, riverbeds, and
fields sourced from films. They are images of the natural world already selected, lit, and cropped through
the lens of a camera and chosen for their ability to contribute to the arc of a storyline. As we know,
images of nature in film often perform as stand-ins for something else: the myth of the forest meant to
activate, depending on genre, feelings of wonder, strangeness, or fear of an unknown. The forest can be
seen as an already-known character to its viewers, not named as specific location with navigable
directions and coordinates, but a role meant to conjure recognition and feeling. The forest that represents
the unknown or the strange might be a different thing for different viewers, but nonetheless it creates a
connective thread of emotional response. At the same time, film is a filter that changes the shape and
feeling of the natural world, and creating paintings from screenshots presents an alternative view of a
traditional method of creating or sourcing landscape.
By painting screenshots, Carvalho reflects the way our memories often create hybrids of the natural and
fabricated world, combining personal experience with movies and shows. The paintings portray
something known through a multitude of sensory experiences, like watching, running in a field, looking
up while swimming, looking and listening. They further highlight the process of filtering that is integral to
knowing, understanding our experiences and processing them, seeing them change in different light.
These are the stories of shades; sap green, terre verte, cadmium green, burnt umber, raw sienna, linseed,
walnut, and tung oil. Each of Carvalho's paintings are comprised of a close range of pigments, from acid
yellowish greens to blackish browns, while small patches of white gesso and red underpainted sketches
peer through from behind. They are colours that tighten the gap between object and subject, because of
the way their pigment references the places depicted. Sap Green is a rich mid-range green with a yellow
undertone, originally a lake pigment made from unripe Buckthorn berries. Burnt Umber is made from
natural brown clays found in earth, burning the raw pigment to further intensify its colour2. The dense
greens of the vegetation and earth colours are the very materials used in these paintings and this changes
the flow of time. The relationship between rocks and leaves is mirrored in the layers of paint and oil. The
physical space depicted in the paintings, the distance between each tree, is replicated in small vertical
brushstrokes one on top of another. The two spaces, the forest and the studio, are both present in the work
when deep space is created through the visible marks of the brush. The distance between objects, between
molecules and bodies exists in relation to the trees further accentuating an intimacy between bodies and
When paint is mixed with oil, thin layers of semi-transparent colour darken and alter those pigments
already applied beneath. The layers create translucent shadows that change depending on conditions of
light and vantage. Layers that represent the physical action of laying down paint and captured time,
contained within each layer, as a story, as a shade.