In September of 2010 Jeffrey began work on a new group of color etchings, aquatints, and drypoints. Simmons’ paintings and watercolors are well known for their poise, austere beauty, and rich coloration. During his ongoing collaboration with New West Editions Jeffrey has revealed that behind the refined, controlled surface of his work there is an improvisational and whimsical virtuoso, employing any technique to test the limits of an idea or image. His natural facility with the process and materials of etching allowed Jeffrey to confidently approach each copper plate as directly as he would a piece of paper.
Isaac Watts, the largest print in this body of work, is a stunning reminder of Jeffrey’s first print, Blind Agent, published by Baer Press in 2008. Here a figural cloud of deep blue pixels hovers in a gaseous field of black; it emerges and recedes as if it were an apparition. Isaac Watts, named for the 18th Century English hymn-writer, evinces Simmons’ affinity for process and toying with the pace at which images reveal themselves.
Silence, a color drypoint comprised of four plates, sheds the somber, graphic qualities of Isaac Watts and offers a light, meditative experience. Like his watercolors, the print plays with bands of primary colors in varying widths and layers of transparency. By building up the image from multiple plates the combination of red, yellow, and blue produces a full spectrum of diaphanous color that blooms across the page in concentric circles. Looking at these new prints may not be a spiritual experience per se, but the intimate and enchantingly colored images fracture almost any temporal references.
“The print Isaac Watts is related to a series of small paintings I produced in 2009-2010. In these paintings, simple, loose, drippy brush marks were made with thin paint on a dark background. These brush marks were then overlaid with a grid and broken down into dots whose size corresponded to the density of the underlying passage. A process of over-painting and sanding these dots resulted in finished paintings that appeared to be flat, pixilated, low-resolution versions of the original images. Later, while considering how to make a print that related to these paintings, I came across a snapshot photograph of work in my studio, including several abandoned paintings from the original group. One painting, long since destroyed, struck me as being a more compelling image in the snapshot than it had been in real life. I rescaled the picture of this painting-in-progress on a computer and used it as the source for the print, imposing a new grid on the previously pixilated brush mark and in the process reducing the resolution still further. The title, Isaac Watts, came from a list I compiled of potential titles that were also names. Isaac Watts was an 18th Century hymn-writer. I am aware of his work through the shape-note setting of his text “Death like an overflowing stream”; and the title was chosen primarily based upon this association, given my application of loss and removal as techniques in the creation of this print.”
~Jeffrey Simmons, 2011
Jeffrey Simmons is represented by the Greg Kucera Gallery, in Seattle, WA. We congratulate Jeff on his recent exhibition: “Jeffrey Simmons: Paintings, Watercolors, and Etchings”.
You can keep up with Jeffrey’s work on his Tumblr site: jeffreysimmons.tumblr.com