It would not be altogether surprising if someone, on some hypothetical jaunt around Bryan Jernigan’s backyard, caught a glimpse of the corrugated metal structure, shining out the sun’s dizzying dazzle, and assumed that it was an oversized, luxury chicken coop.
This assumption, while unsurprising (and, might I add, encouraged), would be incorrect.
As an Oklahoman homage to Bryan’s Midwestern upbringing, the structure in question was modeled to look like a chicken coop, but it is actually an art studio.
The studio, a shared space between Bryan and his wife – a jeweler and metalsmith, is part his, part hers. Where he fills his side with books, an easel, stretcher bars, and paints, she fills hers with heavy machinery, equipment and precious stones. But, when the two are together, the backyard studio becomes a blissful space of family and unity.
“The studio is our sanctuary, a place where we catch up on our days, share a glass of wine and give each other feedback,” says Bryan. “It’s heaven.”
From his backyard, he creates alive, bursting works on a spectrum of abstract. His main joy from painting comes from connecting with the memories of his audience.
“When my paintings remind someone of a specific type of flower or a place where he or she has been, I know I have made a real connection with the viewer,” Bryan explains. “That connection is the most gratifying part of painting.”
Bryan connects to his audience through a simple, yet powerful modes. He says, “I am guided, most often, by color and line.”
His work is informed with great precision by both the color and the line, although in different ways – the colors are as pleasing to one part of the brain, as lines are to another.
“I find line gives me a framework with which to work, but color allows me to move beyond line,” he says. “In my ‘floral’ pieces, I often use line to help me determine a compositional structure, and then use color to punctuate the pieces and tell the story.”
The flourishes of color, like clung garland on the composition’s thin, inconspicuous scaffolding, bud out from the linework to soften the formal infrastructure.
The linear and the colorful, positioned as curiously synchronized opposites, form a clever little pulley system that hoists the canvas into its perceivable harmony. Even in technique and process, Bryan is guided by the tugging of this system.
“I love the softness that brushes can supply. But, I equally love the rudimentary marks of a palette knife. I feel I’ve found a way to marry the two, so that it mirrors life, sometimes soft and light, sometimes gritty and edgy, but always wonderful,” says the artist.
Bryan’s work, though neither wholly abstract nor moodily expressive, does bear some degree of abstractionist’s blasé brilliance. There is a cool jazziness to all of it – this line just so happened to curve this way and then that way.
However, several things distinguish Bryan from abstractionists, such as his desire to create beauty ex nihilo.
“I know for a very long time, abstractionists really were all about the struggle; finding the beauty in the ugly and making isolationist works, and that’s okay. But, because I truly am happy to create something from nothing, I like my creations to be what I consider beautiful,” says the artist.