From the rush of a dog team racing across the frozen Nunatsiavut landscape to fishing near the pulsing Pinware River, St John’s-based painter Bronson Jacque has honed a visual language all his own—one laden with time and memory that softens the edges in a loose, hazy naturalism. “When I was growing up, I didn’t realize I needed glasses so everything I saw was blurry except for things that were near me,” the artist explains. This early experience with the mechanics of optics and the shifting nature of human vision has found its way into his painting practice, which heavily favours imagery that invites a viewer’s close attention and plays with their understanding of distance and perspective.
Jacque, who has come to be known for his evocative and often dreamy scenes, was raised in an artistic family from Postville, Nunatsiavut, NL, and has been engaged in making since an early age. “It’s just something that we do up in Labrador, creating things,” says Jacque. “We like to make things with our hands, it makes us feel proud—sharing the things that are on our mind.”
Bronson Jacque Uncle Doug’s Wharf (2019) Oil 40.6 × 50.8 cm
Though he no longer resides in Nunatsiavut, the artist fondly recalls childhood memories of living near the ocean, and they resonate in his work: “When you’re a kid everything feels beautiful. By capturing this same quality in a painting, for me, it makes the subject feel much more intimate and personal.” Affect is an important consideration in his practice: “I’m interested in translating a moment or a feeling,” he adds about scenes like Trappers Cove (2019) that combine the intangibility of memory with his soft touch. Trappers Cove depicts the striking silhouette of a fishing boat caught in roiling waters, vibrating with visible strokes of plum, lilac, marigold and coral that relay the flicking evening light across the water’s surface.
The urge to capture fleeting moments pervades works such as Uncle Doug’s Wharf (2019). Here a lone fisherman traverses a human-made landscape of patchwork boards, planks and plywood panels that mend years of use, all of it dissolving into early-morning mist. Behind him, a bright tangerine buoy, a cerulean-tipped qamutiik and an olive fishing net punctuate the otherwise muted scene. The atmosphere is palpably thick, and the viewer feels the inescapable vastness of the sea and sky as a bridge, boat and similar coastal markers are gradually absorbed into the distant fog. For the artist, whose family has long worked on the water, scenes such as this evoke another kind of aura. “The wharf is a social place, a place to gather and a place where people make their living,” he explains. “It is a very vital part of a small community, especially on the north coast of Nunatsiavut where you get your food from the sea.”
Bronson Jacque Rebar Workers (2016) Coloured pencil 20.3 × 25.4 cm
Jacque works full-time as an artist and receives steady commissions ranging from family portraits to a large-scale painting for the inaugural exhibition of the Inuit Art Centre in Winnipeg, MB, which opens in 2020 and has Jacque bracing for an exciting year ahead. He looks forward to exploring more abstract terrain in the future while also remaining committed to honing his ability to capture the fleeting and ephemeral across his work: “I really want to present different moments to people. Creating art is about sharing stories and communicating and is a great way of giving yourself to someone else, in an intimate and personal way.”
This article first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly.
Jacque and other artists will be at Northern Lights 2020 in Ottawa February 5th to 8th.