Arts & Culture » 1st Thursday

Gardiner's Delights

The Bouquet blooms anew on First Thursday


The Bouquet isn't just a popular downtown watering hole--they also exhibit art in the bar, a feature that they plan to revamp and expand. BW talked with Morgan Foster, club manager, about The Bouquet's plans for the future. She leaned across the table, flashing smiles as she explained their plans to add new features and events to the roster. It was easy to catch her enthusiasm.

Local artists will have their day at the Bouquet and that day is First Thursday. February's featured artist is a Gardiner ... Jonathan Gardiner. Gardiner introduces oil to canvas in ways that are startlingly colorful, playful and thought-provoking. Looking at his completed work makes him smile and he says he wants to get the same response from the observer. Barring that, Gardiner said, he would like to make us think.

This artist does surprising things with color and form. Images "lift" themselves toward your eyes and entice you to slide your fingers over their rippling textures. It's OK with Jonathan if you do--that's the effect he's going for. The paintings are sometimes boldly abstract, while others have a Celtic quality, layered in symbolism. In all instances, Gardiner is extremely clever and fearless in his use of color.

This artist is unaccustomed to speaking about himself and his work. At the urging of those who've seen his progress in the past year, Gardiner is stepping out of the shadows. This will be his first show in Boise and possibly the start of a strong career; he may have to grow used to attention.

A Boise resident since 2000, Gardiner came to the United States in 1998. He is a critical care nurse at St. Luke's hospital. He says painting gives him a chance to stay sane after the stress of an average day saving lives.

Gardiner was born in Consett, in the north east of England, in 1973, and shortly thereafter, his family moved to Scotland. In spite of making a new home in Scotland, the Gardiner family staunchly maintained their British identity. As a result, young Jonathan learned early how best to engage, or avoid, scrapes with his peers. When he engages in conversation, Jonathan's "few words" reveal a strong Scottish accent.

His vivid canvas, Church of Scotland, represents the artist's feelings about religion. Hot and cold colors radiate out of the tiled Celtic crosses set in the St. Andrew's diagonal. Grey areas of the painting indicate Gardiner's theological uncertainties. Casino Carpet is an intriguing piece that wears better upon your eyes the longer you gaze at it. Gardiner pondered placing bits of commonplace gambling hall rubbish into the picture--cigarette butts, wrappers--but the picture is satisfying as it is and appropriately named. And its texture is perfect. Gardiner makes a statement on creationism with Intelligent Design. He's used his colors very deliberately here to indicate the ingredients of life: watery blues, organic greens and burning reds. Tree of Life, a Celtic standard normally in knotwork, is a stunning piece in which the artist has incorporated intimate elements of his experiences. Roots of the tree suggest sustenance being drawn from the past, nourishing growth and the promise of an abundant future. Organic Form #14 will fulfill Gardiner's hopes of making people smile, with its rich, sinewy greens undulating up either side of the canvas, while the middle section is a thickly carved hatchwork of warm and cool colors. This one begs you to touch.

Jonathan's canvasses are not timid, compact renderings. Their dimensions run mostly in three to four foot breadths. His themes are unique and each of his paintings has a powerful personality, engaging the senses on multiple levels. There is tremendous precision in his designs and it is obvious he has taken hours to lay out his images for maximum effect. He plays visual games with the observer, challenging viewers with his illusions of depth and varieties of texture.

Gardiner hopes to show 11 of his canvasses at the Bouquet on February 2. If the Bouquet follows Gardiner's show with others of similar quality, the First Thursdays there will be a "must see" event.

Gardiner's exhibition will be on display at the Bouquet, 1010 W. Main St., 345-6605.