Encaustic Paintings by Jef Gunn

Last week a friend and I sloshed our way through the Pineapple Express rainstorm to see some art (and eat some high-end lunch). Jef Gun, instructor at PNCA and the voice in my head these days as I paint, had an encaustic exhibit at Augen Gallery. Encaustics are wax paintings, the wax having pigment embedded to make color. Working with wax means keeping the temps high enough to make the wax paintable, but not so high as to vaporize it. It adds a layer of complication which, unless one is doing simple collage, seem unimaginable to me.

Of course, Jef makes the process look simple, making layers and mysterious fogs, overlain by sharp figuring. He is also, in this exhibit, using writing across the face of the painting, sometimes “real” writing, sometimes a made-up calligraphy.

jefmtrisingclearheartwJef Gunn, Rising, Clear Heart, about 60 x 50 inches.

Here’s a detail from Rising:


Rising, Clear Heart, detail

He uses a gold foil here in his calligraphic marks and, as he told us in class and as is obvious in the imagery, he has been influenced by Chinese paintings.


Jef Gun, No Movement, 21 x 21″

No Movement, above, feels when you look at it as if the words are scrolling down, like a moving curtain, across the wax painting beneath.


Jef Gun, Wild Horse Lake, 25 x 75″

Wild Horse Lake is the encaustic painting that my friend said looked like my paintings. As it happens, the real Wild Horse Lake is visible from the top of Steen’s Mountain, a place that Jef took his workshop (in which I was a participant) to in August of 2007. He had been painting there prior to the workshop, and I’m assuming it’s one of the places the resonate with him. I painted there too, but must confess that the ringing I heard was mostly the wind whistling by my ears as I huddled next to a vehicle and laid my canvas flat on a rock — tied to various other rocks — in the hopes of keeping it from flying over the cliff. I lost only a hat to the wind, but my thirst for painting at Steens was pretty well quenched.

For other encaustic paintings by Jef Gunn, continue with the post. –June

jefboonbestowingwJef Gun, Boon Bestowing, 39 x 31″

jefdawnwJef Gunn,  Dawn, 72 x 60″

This encaustic embeds a lace curtain within the wax matrix. It is, ahem, a textile work.


The title of the exhibit is Mind in Landscape, and aside from the conception of “mind,” the paintings (disparate styles, including abstracts, more coast scenes, and more Asian derivatives, some with and some without writing and/or gold leaf) is unified by the encaustic technique itself. The exhibit, at Augen Gallery, runs until November 28, 2008. If you find the encaustics fascinating, Jef has many more on his website.

This entry was posted in Art, landscape, painting, Portland, representative, textile and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Encaustic Paintings by Jef Gunn

  1. Sheila says:

    I only learned about encaustics a few years ago and saw my first one face to face last month. Photos do not get across the effect the wax has on the piece. It was fascinating to study one up close.

    How interesting that items can be imbedded in it as well. Yes, a textile piece! Have you informed him yet?


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