Nygren and Nurmi

Nygren Judy  flower on black small

Judy Nygren, Flower, Acrylic on canvas

All images on this post are copyright of Judy Nygren and Terry Nurmi and posted with their permission.

It was hot last night and boding not well for a good turn out at the Fort Gallery but I was determined to go there.  The advertising for the current show looked interesting and I was keen to get out of the house. With this heat, I’ve been laying low.

Everyone was quite surprised, then, to see the excellent turn-out of people braving the heat and humidity to see Judy Nygren’s and Terri Nurmi’s show.

I had an interesting chat with Judy. I liked the images, especially where her objects seem to disintegrate into the background, confounding edges, providing ambiguities to explore. Where does the object start and where does it finish?

I asked her whether or not there was a unifying idea behind the images – there were a few paintings depicting different images of the same teapot; and several pictures of fluid looking flowers. In the second exhibition room,  one painting stood out from the others as more anecdotal and perhaps imbued with more meaning.  It is a picture of a swan flying and a woman astride the bird’s back.  The woman’s foot is thrust forward and pointed, clad in a ballerina’s toe shoe.

Nygren Judy Swan and rider small

When I remarked upon the shoe, Nygren informed me that she was a dancer and hence the connection within her iconography. I suggested references to Leda and the Swan, but she had not consciously thought of that. I mentioned that it looked like the woman was flying away to freedom and looking back whence she came.

Nygren thought that this was an apt interpretation of the images, but confessed that she still hadn’t worked out what the two faces were about.

“Perhaps your old self at the back and the new self going forward? I suggested.  She didn’t know. Couldn’t say. Maybe.

Nygren spoke of  her year of personal changes, the failure of a close relationship and a year of falling apart and assuaging the catastrophic feelings with the healing act of painting.  I pointed out the apparent disintegration happening in the imagery.  She nodded, but confessed that it must have come subconsciously, since she hadn’t set out to express that. To the contrary. The act painting had lifted her out of her concerns; taken her to another more peaceful state of being.

I also noted an unravelling that occurs in many of the images. Same response. But she nodded her head in agreement – her life had felt like it was unravelling.

Nygren’s works are full of strong colour. There are several that contrast an almost khaki colour background with strong cadmium red objects.  She is working in acrylic and her facility with the medium is obvious. She can paint fine line and defined areas cleanly and clearly and conversely, she can bring subtle blendings of colour into play.

One of her themes is flowers which, for leading edge paintings is always considered something of a slippery slope, edging into the too-facile.  As one university professor reportedly said, “If you are going to do flowers, it damn well better be very different.”

On this subject, I found Nygren’s flowers visually quite interesting and engaging for their liveliness. They are formed from a build up of black line-drawings with coloured infill.  They are  rhythmic. They virtually fly through the picture plane with the meanderings of their fluid forms and shapes. Rhythm, in all of her paintings, is one of her strengths, and motion.

Some of them reminded me of a painting I saw in an exhibition that gathered works from the era moving out of realism and into abstraction. It was one of the first images that confounded borders of things, the inside and out of them. It was a bottle and it had been describe only by what wasn’t there – the air around it and the air inside of it.

It might have been Mondrian in his search for more a spiritual description of things or Georges Braque in his analytical search, beginning to develop his ideas of Cubism. I’ve forgotten the name of the artist, it was such a long time ago.

Nygen Judy Turq teapot small

Some of Nygren’s images are easy to read; others need your full attention. There are four or more images of a vessel, presumably a teapot, mostly in red, but one is described with a coloration of turquoise or cerulean blue. In one of these, the viewer is disoriented. What is the object they are viewing?

“A hookah?” my companion of the evening ask. Judy Nygren is just behind her and answers, “Someone said it looked like a vagina. She’s a midwife, so she’s seen a lot of them. No! I never thought that when I was painting it; though I can see the resemblance now. It’s the teapot. You are looking at the spout.”

nygren judy teapot 2 small

It all kicked in as she said it. It was simple. But we are not used to looking at things from a different point of view. On consideration, this was one of my favourites from this show. Everyone’s contribution to how they saw the picture made it richer for me.  After all, the painter is only one half of the art equation. If no one views it, Confusion says, does it really exist? But the viewer is not obliged to see in it what the painter put in it. More often this is the case. Each person brings their own experience to the dialogue of art.

Nygren Judy Bowl with tulips small

Nygren’s works are happy and uplifting, colourful and engaging. Before the end of the opening, several works had been purchased and that is an excellent thing to have happen.

Terri Nurmi is a very different artist. She too has had some challenging life events that have led her to create her imagery. Her artist’s statement is so beautiful that I will reprint it here.

I woke up & went to the bags that held her things … just to smell them. The wonderful aroma of her was dissipating. I wondered how many more smells I would have before she was gone.

“about face” is an exhibition that refers to change. To the shift of identity that happens to all that experience the loss of a friend or family member. This shift requires change. The two are interwoven.

The phrase “about face” is most ambiguous. For me, the work entitled, “Blueprint II” refers to my own shift of identy through the loss of my twin sister. At first, working towards this exhibit, I attempted to paint images from her things. But soon realized that previous bodies of photographic work, inadvertently referring to our relationship, were also beckoning for closure.

As I was speaking to her, Terry described her images as blueprints and the series is entitled Blueprints II of which thirteen are shown. They commemorate her twin sister in a series of images entitled with nostalgic names – Dried Roses and Boostier;  Green Negligé; Lingerie Bag;  Humming Bird and Wire Sculpture;  Pearl Button;  Klimpt;  Bleeding Heart;  Flying; Forget me not;  Houseboat;  I Hope You Dance; Wedding Ring Quilt; and Baby Stuff.

The images are imbued with deep emotion but are more conceptual in composition than Nygren’s. Where Nygren’s subconscious had flirted with the themes of disintegration, she has not intentionally set out to do so. On the contrary, Nurmi’s works quite consciously set out to explore her feelings directly. The images are composed of tokens, relics, remembrances of things she has shared intimately with her sister.

Nurmi Terry Misfortunes

Where Nygren has let loose her images and they fly exuberently, Nurmi’s seem to be  consciously gathering in, codifying, cataloguing and nostalgically preserving them in a clarity that will continue to evoke for her the loss of a loved sister. They are a still and very beautiful archive. A deeply felt testament.

These are printed works under glass. At the exhibition, I was unable to get excellent pictures of them. In particular, Blueprint I, an ambitious and meticulous work  subtitled Misfortunes, a five foot square assemblage of wood, plexiglass and 99 folded fortunes, was always being inspected by one of the visitors to the exhibition. In any case, even if no one was in front of it, the glare from the gallery lights would have made it impossible to properly photograph.  It is adventurous, not only in scale but in idea.

Nurmi Terry Misfortunes detail small

Terry Nurmi Blueprint I Misfortunes, detail

Each of the folded fortunes recalls a childhood game we played where a sheet of square paper was folded into further squares creating a three dimensional form that could be manipulated with thumb and forefinger. Along with a chant about one’s future, the fortune teller would variably open and close these cones and when the chant stopped, that would be one’s true fortune. The fortunes had been filled in on the facets of paper with girl-child wish lists – happiness, names of desirable boyfriends, friendship, good luck,  and some disasters too – a scolding,  school detention. With our childhood innocence, there was nothing too ill lurking beneath the paper corners. Not like death, cancer, accident and other griefs of great harm and destruction.

In Blueprints II there are fourteen works shown. Most are about eight inches square and all a somewhat gloomy blue colour of the cyanotype.  Yet, there is a bittersweet beauty, a lost beauty, for Nurmi.  Shared femininity is at the core of it and intimacy of twin sisters – lingerie, maquillage, love tokens from evenings out, and  articles of cherished clothing.

Nurmi Terry Green Neglige small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Green Neglige

Nurmi Terry Bleeding Heart small

Terry Nurmi Blueprint II Bleeding Heart

Nurmi Terry Humming bird and wire structure small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Humming bird and wire structure

Nurmi Terry Flying small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Flying

One last note on Nurmi’s imagery:

In each one of Nurmi’s images exhibited, the composition is unique to the piece. The subject matter is different in each piece. There is little repetition here. This speaks of a very fertile mind, visually. It is to be honoured and celebrated. This is an amazing body of work.

My photos lack the characteristic blue colour of the cyanotype; I’ve adjusted them as best as I could from memory. Some have glare on them from the glass, as well, but they are sufficient, I hope, to nudge you down to the Fort Gallery to see them.  It’s a very engaging exhibition.

By the way, I looked for their web presence and the Fort Gallery is the only place for either of them. Here’s the web address.


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2 Responses to “Nygren and Nurmi”

  1. severnyproductions Says:

    really nice painting

  2. forestrat Says:

    Sorry I haven’t been visiting lately – for the past couple of months either we have been out of town or we have had out of town guests visiting us so I just haven’t had the time.

    I found it interesting that Judy Nygren could not really say what her images “meant”. I like the idea that her art was free to go where ever it would.

    I find it difficult to do that with photography. The photograph always starts with something tangible. One can play with the light and change perspectives to make the image less representational, but still the object remains.


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