Canadian Artist in Scotland – Trevor Jones: Art is Not Just Pretty Colors

Trevor Jones recalls that as a child in a tiny logging community in Western Canada, his grandmother told him he would grow up to be an artist. At age 26, Jones left Canada with only a backpack. During the three years he traveled throughout North America, Australia and Oceania, Europe and Africa, he began to develop a serious interest in art.

When he arrived in Scotland, he fell in love with the area and decided to enroll in a unique five-year course of study split between art history at Edinburgh University and art studio practice in the Drawing and Painting department at Edinburgh College of Art. His intention was to emerge as an academically trained figurative painter.

In his third year at Edinburgh University, Jones enrolled in an art history class called Primitivism in Modern Art taught by Elizabeth Cowling, a world expert on Picasso. She opened his eyes and mind, and his affinity began to shift from the representational in art to more abstract qualities, such as in the work of German Expressionists and American Abstract Expressionists. As Jones progressed in his art history studies, he chose to specialize in the Scottish colorist and expressionist painters, especially John Bellany, Barbara Rae, Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham and Joan Eardley. “Eardley created some of the most wonderful paintings I have ever seen and yet she is not well known on the international stage,” he remarked.

Jones now holds a Master of Arts degree, with Honors, in Fine Art Drawing and Painting. He paints abstractly and teaches figurative drawing and painting at the private Leith School of Artin Scotland .

“My art is not just pretty colors,” Jones stated. Yet he does not consider himself “an art elitist,” adding that “if someone likes one of my paintings because they love the colors, I’m happy too.”

Inspiration for Jones’ abstract paintings also includes his fascination with color psychology – such facts as, that the color red, when viewed, increases one’s heart rate, while the color blue has the opposite effect. “When taking into consideration that how one perceives color is hugely impacted by cultural factors and language, one discovers that the phenomenon of color is exceptionally complicated,” Jones said.

His color studies have also included the paintings of Kandinsky, Klee, Roy de Maistre ( an early 20th century Australian painter who developed a color wheel that directly relates to the notes of the musical scale), as well as the color theory and music of composer Alexander Scriabin, who was also fascinated with the sensory link between music and color. Wikipedia

In his studio, Jones begins with a “combination of feeling and color science.” He listens to a music track over and over on his iPod as he paints with a color music code, such as in his recent work titled Harry’s in Heaven, a large mixed media painting in sage green, with orange, blue and violet areas – colors that represent the notes G and C in de Maistre’s color music code.

Jones does not experience color synaesthesia, as if to see a specific color when he hears a musical note, but he does experience a “movement of shapes,” when listening to music as he paints that materialize in his painting through mark-making, patterns and brushstrokes.

“I have absolutely no preconceived idea of how a painting will turn out. I begin working with the media; reacting to it, shifting it, engaging, responding, continuing to push paint around until something happens for me visually,” he described.

He will work on two to 15 paintings at once in various sizes – “all on 6mm board that will stand up to the physical painting, scraping into it or scratching it off,” in a “love-hate relationship” with his artwork that he finds stressful and all-consuming, but which also gives him pleasure and an immense feeling of satisfaction.

“The length of time I work on a painting can take weeks or even months until the paint and other media has been layered over and scraped off many, many times. It’s not the most efficient way of working, as I really have no idea how long a painting will take, but it’s the only way that feels right to me. None of my paintings come out quickly, even though they all are, to some extent, spontaneous. I know that I will have to destroy a piece many times before I finally find what I’m looking for. It’s the same in life – if you don’t take risks, if you’re not willing to jump in feet first, you’ll never find out how far you can actually push yourself. You’ll never find out what you can really achieve. “

Jones’ upcoming gallery exhibition, Poem of Ecstasy, will contain his abstract paintings that are each a direct interpretation of a particular contemporary Scottish song – music easy enough for the artist to have broken down into chord progressions and then color coded. In his previous two exhibitions, Synaesthesia I and SynaesthesiaII, the gallery had MP3 players with all the songs that Trevor had listened to while creating his paintings, available to gallery goers to listen to while viewing each work. “The paintings were titled after the song, so the viewer could easily skip to the relevant song for each painting they were looking at. Although many people really liked this, as abstract painting can be inaccessible to a lot of people, there were others who felt they preferred the paintings without the music. Everyone’s different,” Jones said.

“I only graduated a couple years ago as a mature student, but everything is coming together with regards to my artwork, my reputation, my teaching and my success as an artist. My long-term dream is to be living on the Italian island of Sardinia (where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years) painting. Most likely I’ll set up a painting package holiday program to run peak season and then the other seven months of the year I’ll paint towards my international exhibitions and travel the world. La dolce vita! “

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