Jennifer Shimatsu was classically trained as a Japanese brush painter for thirteen years. Her earlier work is a clear demonstration of this. Throughout the years, her paintings have transitioned to abstraction.
While in Graduate school, her paintings were influenced by her experience with auras. Jennifer has experienced migraine headaches her entire life and in the midst of them, she sees visual occlusions called auras. These auras are anomalous forms within the visual field whose specific colors and depth are indeterminate. As a painter, it was the marvelously elusive yet intensely visual effects of the aura that interested her the most. She used her experience with migraine headaches as a way to explore abstract painting and perception.
Jennifer has described in detail her experiences with auras and how they affected 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 her work. Jennifer’s recent paintings attempt to manifest an experience where one’s visionary experience is induced to regions of the mind that are not normally accessible. She desires strange experiences while also maintaining a certain regularity such as referencing a landscape or pattern. The landscape is a common theme within 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. Her landscapes are created by the painting itself—a drip becomes a tree; a brush stroke becomes vegetation. The paint dictates the final outcome of the painting. It is logical that her inspiration comes from science fiction, computer and video games, and cinema.
Jennifer’s current paintings attempt to push the boundaries of painting by using materials such as metal and spray paint while still exploring and questioning spatial relationships, intangibility, and light phenomena.