Painting through grief, into light

Flowers emerge from a chaos of brush strokes in Jeri Lynn Ing’s abstract paintings. It’s a metaphor that can easily be applied to the artist’s own life.

Flowers emerge from a chaos of brush strokes in Jeri Lynn Ing’s abstract paintings.

It’s a metaphor that can easily be applied to the artist’s own life.

Ing began creating works in Flower Talk — Full Bloom, now showing in the Coconut Room cafe in Sunworks, to help her find solace after a painful series of personal losses over the past two years.

She recalled not thinking much about what she was painting at first. “I would just paint my grief every day … As my life evolved and things happened, I would just paint my way through it.”

Her emotional trauma started with the death of her older brother from an aneurysm at the age of 52 in August 2013. It continued through her mother’s long, ultimately unsuccessful, cancer battle.

After delivering a eulogy at her mom’s funeral in July 2014 that mentioned her mother’s love of gardening and flowers, Ing suddenly realized what was coming out of her expressionistic renderings: She was subconsciously creating symbols of growth and renewal.

“It was not a conscious thing. I didn’t set out to paint flowers … It just was my way to get through this,” said Ing, whose losses continued in early 2015.

There was the death of her mother-in-law in February. Then, her seemingly hale father succumbed to heart failure just a day before an exhibit of her flower works opened in the white gallery next to Sunworks in May.

The stress of all this contributed to another casualty — Ing and her husband separated just before the oldest of their two daughters started university.

There’s really no one to talk to when life deals you so many blows, said the Red Deer artist.

“You can’t talk about it in public. You can’t talk about it with our friends. I didn’t want other people to feel they had to carry my burdens … You go to a place of grief and grieving. It’s a dark, but very human place.”

Once again, daily painting sessions helped her get through. “The art saved me. It made me stronger,” said Ing, who began to see parallels between the seasonal rebirth of flowers and human resilience.

“The seeds germinate, covered in darkness, then wait for light to bloom.”

Ing’s bold, dynamic artworks were created with brush strokes that scream emotion — from sadness and anger to joy.

She often applied thick layers of paint abstractly, turning her canvases in every direction. A light, opaque colour was used to sketch in the negative spaces at the very end, giving definition to her flower and vase shapes.

An emotional evolution can be seen from early paintings, such as the sorrowful Sunflowers on 37th Street, to the black-bordered mid-period paintings of Roses Are Not Always Red and Come What May, to seemingly happier ones.

Her latest, Untitled # 1, 2, and 3, have a looser, less representational feel. But there are still many layers to them, said Ing, much like the hidden emotions simmering in people we see every day. “There’s so much to see underneath the surface.”

The artist, who has exhibited in Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond, maintains she never gave any thought during the creation process to what people would think of these pieces, which were painted for personal rather than commercial reasons.

But she now hopes their “raw” authenticity strikes a chord with viewers who may be going through their own issues.

“When you go through something difficult, it can catapult you into the creative process. Powerful emotions can push you forward.”

Ing’s paintings Flower Talk — Full Bloom will be displayed in the Coconut Room until February.

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