Julian Forrest belongs to a younger generation of painters based in Edmonton who, in contrast to the city’s long relationship with late modernist abstraction, are fully representational with a strong social engagement in contemporary society. His narrative subject matter has revolved around male identity and masculinity particularly as it has been represented in pop culture: film and television, comic books and video games, war and sports imagery. Forrest’s paintings recycle appropriated imagery from these sources and more recently have placed them in more complex compositions with settings as diverse as modern suburbia, the old west and the wilderness.
Forrest received his BFA from Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB, 1995) and an MFA from the University of Alberta (2005). He is the recipient of numerous scholarships, awards and grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation (1995, 2000 & 2002); Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2004); Alberta Foundation for the Arts (2004, 2006, 2007 & 2010) and University of Alberta for research and travel assistance.
He has had several solo exhibitions in Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Saint John, Sackville, Calgary, London, ON and San Antonio, Texas. Group shows are also numerous and include three paintings for the 2007 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art (2007).
-Curator Mary-Beth Laviolette, for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (2016)
Over the past several years I have been painting bunkers, lunar landers, suburban bungalows, and other “refuges” that I had read about in books or watched in movies as a child in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I also began searching for images of seminal locations from my youth: lakeshores in Ontario, motels in Quebec, coastlines in the Maritimes, and other places from halcyon days gone by.
Of course it is impossible to recapture the potency and novelty of those experiences. Looking backward is an exercise in self-deception. The complex and dynamic nature of memory ensures that our relationship with time and place has been distorted by age and nostalgia. These paintings reflect a sense of disorientation and longing for a time that can never be recaptured. Storytelling for me is about recollecting and reconfiguring elements in order to arrive at an enigmatic, (re)imagined version of reality, while remaining attentive in my practice to the needs of Painting itself.
Quite a few of the shelters in these paintings are on fire. I like the idea of something slightly disquieting in an otherwise quiet life, like those (mis)remembered days of my youth where I often found myself taking refuge in strange quarters. Looking at fire through this lens (a recurring subject in this work), the Modernist in me sees it as a blooming flower or ball of bright colour; the Postmodernist sees it as a narrative motif, a beacon or a signal for anyone out there looking for signs of life. The video for David Bowie’s Space Oddity was released in 1972, the year I was born. I can hear it now: it's time to leave the capsule if you dare.
In June of 2023, I flew to Svalbard (Norway) where I joined 29 other artists from around the world aboard the Antigua, a traditionally rigged Barquentine. We sailed around as much of the archipelago as ice would allow, frequently heading to land on zodiac boats to explore and make artwork based on glaciers, moraine, abandoned whaling and hunting refuges, wildlife, and other eroding elements in the region. The Arctic Circle Residency was an opportunity to explore the relationship between our internal and external landscapes.
In any one year at Augustana, I teach Drawing courses (Art 231, 230, 232), Painting courses (271, 270, 272) and occasionally Directed Studies courses at the senior level
An introduction to the practice of visual art. Basic drawing, composition, colour and creative principles are explored. Historical and contemporary artists are introduced in relation to studio projects.
An introductory course focused exclusively on the practice of drawing. Historical and contemporary techniques are used to explore a balance of directly observed, and photography-based subject matter. Prerequisite: Second year standing, or consent of the instructor (based on portfolio submission). Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar.
Further exploration of drawing practice with the application of observational and conceptual skills that focuses on the figure. Includes an examination of anatomy, the portrait and the expressive potential of the human form. Prerequisite: Second year standing and one of AUART 111, 230, 231 or consent of the instructor. Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar.
An introductory painting course that explores contemporary themes germane to other disciplines. This is a water-based media course: ink and/or watercolour and/or acrylic. Prerequisite: Second year standing or consent of the instructor (based on portfolio submission).
Senior drawing course that further develops techniques and concepts with a focus on contemporary practices leading to self- initiated projects. Prerequisite: AUART 230, 231 or 232. Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar.
Individual study course for the highly advanced studio art student. A selected theme in two- or three-dimensional expression is explored intensively. Note: An Application for Individual Study must be completed and approved before registration in the course.
Selected topics in the study of Fine Arts. Content may vary from course to course. Topics and credit value announced prior to registration period. Prerequisites: Varies according to topic.