JENNIFER SHIMATSU trained for 13 years as a classical Japanese brush painter. Throughout the years her style has traversed along and landed into an contemporary abstract rendition that lives somewhere between then, and now.
While in graduate school, Jennifer has experienced migraines her entire life and in the midst of them sees visual occlusions called auras, which influenced her paintings. These auras are anomalous forms within the visual field whose specific colors and depth are indeterminate. As a painter, it was the marvelous and elusive yet intensely visual effects of the aura that interested her the most. She used her experience with migraines as a way to explore abstract painting and perception.
Jennifer has described in detail her experiences with auras and how they influenced her paintings in the following excerpt:
“My migraine experiences present visual phenomena that appear to be at once hallucinatory and just as physically present as objects in a room. They are conflicted experiences, both real and unreal in their brute presence and dazzling immateriality. Notwithstanding the harsh brightness of some of my paintings, it is not my general intention to evoke the pain of the migraine in my work nor to foster a connotation of affliction. I focus on the aura because it presents an intangibility that becomes tangible, because of the different effects that accompany it and because of its inherent spatial ambiguity: roughly speaking, an ambiguity of the out there and the in here. My use of color unifies as much as discriminates between these images. Forms disappear and disintegrate within, then re-materialize and vibrate out into the vision of the perceiver, transforming the experience of my painting, I imagine, into a virtual migraine, stripped of pain, with only its beauty and marvel intact. I was drawn to the phenomenal effect of the migraine in my work because it allowed me to become aware of relationships between light and dark, color, flatness and depth that I would not have otherwise thought about. The conflictual space of the migraine has complicated my sense of space as well. Subjective space, to say the least, has been reoriented; natural space infiltrated by a second, more abstract, hallucinatory nature; finally, painting space, once a fairly placid oceanarium, now more turbulent, having been affected by the other two. And my experience of the auras, which I would have to describe as non-representational, are now there for me to use, perhaps inevitably, as a way to explore abstract painting and perception.”
Aldous Huxley remains an influence on Jennifer's work since her recent paintings attempt to alter one’s visionary experience and stimulate regions of the mind that are normally inaccessible. Jennifer desires to employ unique and unusual experiences whilst also employing regularity, such as landscape or pattern. The landscape is a common motif that thrives in her work. As Huxley stated "when we look very far into the landscape or very near, we either disappear completely or lose our primacy."
Jennifer’s paintings reference a landscape, but also defy it with ambiguity again being the denominator. Her landscapes are birthed by the painting itself—in a sense for forced objectivity—a drip becomes a tree; a brush stroke comes alive. The paint and colors dictate the final outcome.
Another source of inspiration comes from science fiction, video games, and cinema. Jennifer’s most current paintings suggest to alter the boundaries of painting by using materials such as metal and spray paint while still playing with spatial relationships, intangibility, and light phenomena.