Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Jason Engelund

Photographer Jason Engelund is distinctly aware of the conceptual and metaphorical capacities of landscape. Engelund works with a single series of photographs at a time to capture one motif, location, technique, or compositional strategy from various positions. However, these discrete bodies of work resonate with one another as part of a long-term vision—an ongoing project, or more aptly a study of photographic mechanisms and the ways they mark and demarcate landscape.

Jason Engelund. Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60, 2015; photograph; 34 x 44 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Engelund. Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60, 2015; photograph; 34 x 44 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Drawing with the Sun & Sea 60 (2015) is part of Engelund’s 2015 series Meta-Landscapes & Visual Ambient Drones, which depicts a succession of landscapes. For these images, Engelund experiments with intervening in the images—marking the negatives and overlaying frames—before they are developed, and he often does so on-site in direct response to the presence of the landscape itself. The stylistic visual qualities of the subject matter, such as a mountain emerging from an ocean, have been reversed through the artist’s experiments with exposure time; dark and light have switched to make the landscape look snow-covered and unreal, with an ethereal black circle emerging from the center of the frame.

Jason Engelund. The Weight the Light 7, 2015; photograph; 40 x 50 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Engelund. The Weight the Light 7, 2015; photograph; 40 x 50 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Engelund manipulates these images while in the field, not only to create rich visual tensions, but to explore the psychology of the landscape as he poses and answers some key questions: How does one’s experience of a landscape change over time? What are the essential qualities of a photograph and of an open visual plane or landscape? What traces of the land, and vision, remain embedded in collective and individual memory? How does one live within and outside of the order of time?

Jason Engelund. No Exit Just Colors Silver 105, 2015; photograph; 24 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Engelund. No Exit Just Colors Silver 105, 2015; photograph; 24 x 30 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Engelund’s subtle (and, sometimes, not so subtle) acts of manipulation transform the monumental and overwhelmingly awe-inspiring natural landscape into a more readily consumable experience, less philosophical and more personal. In No Exit Just Colors Silver 105 (2015), part of the Meta-Landscapes & Visual Ambient Drones series, the artist takes a much more abstract and painterly tack, reducing light to layers of black and gray shadow, as well as inserting bands of vibrant neon colors that read simultaneously like light from a prism and an image captured on a heat-sensing camera.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 80, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Modern Book Gallery.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 80, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Modern Book Gallery.

Importantly, this work and others like it, including Light Lines 80 (2008), offer a glimpse into Engelund’s technical sophistication and sensitivity; the finished prints present images that seem similar to digital representations that have been repeatedly manipulated on a computer. They are, however, made from only film negatives, altered through varying physical techniques, and printed on paper.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 5, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Modern Book Gallery.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 5, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Modern Book Gallery.

In his 2008 series Light Lines, the artist’s compositions are nearly abstract, with a subtle, minimal touch; film negative has been marked with a few scratches and exposed to a wash of pure light. Interestingly, when seen through the larger lens of his overall project, the Light Lines works read as nearly representational, like vision blurred from long looking—perhaps during a walk through a snow-covered landscape, disorienting and intense. The minimal quality leaves the viewer wondering while admiring the minimal aesthetic and the opaque, waxy spots of color.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 51, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Modern Book Gallery.

Jason Engelund. Light Lines 51, 2008; photograph; 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Modern Book Gallery.

Engelund’s photographs navigate a delicate balance as they push and pull the viewer into and out of the composition, using photography as an experimental and minimal medium to imagine landscapes. The artist depicts spaces filled with timeless potential, but what is perhaps most resounding about Engelund’s work is the measurable commitment to a continuing study of the formal qualities of both landscape and photography, and his skillful and painstaking manipulation of the two.

Jason Engelund received his BFA in painting and experimental film/video at the California College of the Arts, and he received his MFA from the University of California, Davis. He is a founding member of the California College of the Arts Center for Art and Public Life, where he worked for eleven years developing and supporting programs for artists to collaborate with communities locally and across the globe to address social and humanitarian issues. In 2012 Engelund was awarded a Sustainable Arts Foundation Individual Artist grant for his work in photography. Engelund’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions across the Western United States including venues: Onda Gallery, Portland, OR; Hinge Parallel Gallery, Culver City, CA; Eddie Rhodes Gallery, Richmond, CA; Nelson Gallery, Davis, CA, and Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA.

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