Painting has always had a close relationship with time. As a representational medium and a historically driven discourse; the pictorial and conceptual aspects of the picture simultaneously function to capture and preserve a particular moment. In the practice of painting, time is an apparatus on which a painter builds their work, dictating how materials and processes unfold in the studio.

In creating the series High-Fructose Sun, Jonathan Alfaro uses time not only as a cognitive and material factor but also as a matter of form. Alfaro’s exhibition consists of a series of iterative paintings on 2 x 4-foot flat aluminium panels, each describing the same looping script but in shifting citric colours that pull and push the lines and ground back and forth. By narrowing the subject and form of these pieces, Alfaro functionally creates a series of works, each capturing the unique moment they were painted.

The work Summer Script, on the north and east walls, aligns the panels end to end. The long sequence of pictures creates a cinematic strip—each panel functioning as a narrative juncture. Yet, Alfaro’s abstract images do not follow any identifiable narrative or logic. It’s a humorous reference in Vancouver to appropriate the structure of a film strip; it famously was used by Vancouver conceptual photographers such as Ian Wallace and Vikky Alexander in the 70s and 80s. Their avant-garde conceptual photo sequences couldn’t be further from the uncontrolled whorling script and sentimental colours in Alfaro’s pictures.

Furthering this reference, the title of the panoramic painted work is strikingly similar to a 1974 Ian Wallace work ‘The Summer Script’, a 20-meter photo-sequence of 12 stills originating from a film Wallace produced in collaboration with Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham. Although Wallace was concerned with the possible cinematic qualities of the image, Alfaro’s adoption of panoramic sequence multiplies the meaning of ‘script’ from that of a cinematic variety to one of the written word.

One can also view the long line of pictures in Summer Script as a horizon, the warm vibrant colours reminiscent of a sunrise or set. The iterations function like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, a series of impressionist paintings Monet created in the 1880s that captured the shifting light on the west facade of the gothic Rouen Cathedral. While Alfaro’s works similarly repeat in subject and divulge a change in time through their shifting colour—unlike Monet—Alfaro’s paintings do not depict the nuances of a physical existence. They remind me of a childhood painting of an imagined sunset, but depicting only the utopic boundless sky.

Others might describe the pictures in High-Fructose Sun as poetic due to their romantic visual character, the cursive script on each picture, and their aluminium flat paper-like ground. Closing Summer on the south wall of the gallery stacks three panels vertically, creating lines of calligraphy almost like a letter or page. Again this feels to be a particular reference to Vancouver, with the city’s strong and long-standing relationship with poetry—including Vancouver institutions such as the Kootenay School of Writing and the Capilano Review. But here too Alfaro has playfully thwarted a direct citation; on closer inspection what appears to be cursive letters devolve into a series of looping lines, weaving in and out of dreamy fields of colours. While sentimental in their pigment and form the saccharine pictures are aware of their sweetness, as the title of the show suggests, delightfully dancing on the edge of cliché.

So if not cinematic, representational, or linguistic, in what structures or forms do Alfaro’s pictures function? If the works are indeed about time, what time do they capture? The paintings lay no claim to newness or genius, but instead, coyly adopt and queer historical pictorial structures. They capture the utopic longing; for an endless sweet summer sunset; for the perfect verse; for beauty; for harmony; for the perfect picture. That longing is quintessentially one of a painter, to be able to harmonise material and picture, image and concept, criticality and beauty.

— Gillian Haigh


The Burrard Arts Foundation Residency Program is made possible by the generous support of the Chan Family Foundation, the RBC Emerging Artists Program, the City of Vancouver Cultural Grants Program, and TD Bank Group through the #TDReadyCommitment. Photo documentation by Dennis Ha.

High-Fructose Sun

Jonathan Alfaro

Exhibit Dates

Sep 6 to Oct 28, 2023


Sep 6, 6-9PM


BAF Gallery
2-258 East 1st Ave
Vancouver, BC