Beams of sunlight shine down on a quiet valley, deep in the heart of southwestern Ontario.
On closer examination, one can’t help but notice the scene holds more than just pretty scenery.
What was once an ordinary patch of trees is now a gigantic robot, pulling his way out of the earth, a stark contrast to the once tranquil scene.
This is the world of artist Jamie Jardine, a former landscape painter who has found new life in the land of metal and machines.
“It all started about two years ago. Until then, I had survived on my paintings,” he said, adding that’s when he decided to leave the gallery he had been working with for 14 years. “During that time landscapes did pretty well. So, if I needed rent, it wasn’t unheard of for me to drive up to northern Ontario and do a few landscapes because it made sense, and it sold.”
But after over a decade of the same old thing, Jardine was ready for a change.
“At that point I should’ve been in Toronto or Montreal if that’s what I really wanted to do. Until then, The National Gallery had always been the focus,” he said. “So I left and got a huge studio on the south side. In that year, I started playing around with everything and just having a lot of fun. I learned a lot about painting and what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it.”
Eventually the artist turned to his collection of around 100 extra canvases. Some unfinished, some discarded, each one ready for a reincarnation.
That’s where the robots came in.
A self-proclaimed geek, Jardine has always been interested in everything sci-fi, from Buck Rogers to Star Wars. But starting a whole new series of projects would require some major imagination, something the artist felt he was seriously lacking.
“I was used to sitting in front of a tree and painting it. It was wonderful, but that’s all I ever knew,” said Jardine. “The moment I had to put a robot in to a painting, I just didn’t know where to start. In the beginning, they all looked like the Iron Giant, which I had never seen, but that’s what people kept telling me.”
Being forced to head in a different direction, he started steering toward machines that were more — as he put it — zombie-esque.
“People loved them,” Jardine remembered with a smile. “They were these typical Canadian, old-school paintings with robots in them. It’s wasn’t a new idea, but it was just fun. For me, painting was fun again.”
It seems the change has done nothing but good for the painter, who continues to thrive in his new surroundings.
In fact, it seems there is a whole group of fellow creators immersing themselves in all things mechanical.
Starting this week, Jardine’s work will be featured as part of The Robot Show, alongside artists Eric Cator, Mandy Forbes, Michael Leavens and Scott Woods at The Arts Project until Saturday, Nov. 14.
From huge, hinged titans, to tiny, insect-like drones, for Jardine, each subject starts as a scribble of paint before simply turning into whatever they’re meant to be.
When it comes the narrative surrounding his creations, the artist prefers to leave that up to the audience’s own imagination.
“I like that, because that’s essentially what I want the viewer to do. I want them to look at the painting and just piece it together themselves,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of these, it’s what I’ve learned over the years. The rest comes after. I love it all, the big glass helmets, the ray guns . . . and sooner or later it’s the viewer that makes the story really come to life.”