Oliver Jeffers’ paintings explode the night sky into bouquets of flowers — and there’s a message, too


The show at praise shadow Art gallery on Harvard Street, reflects Jeffers’ new approach to a long-standing theme in his work: perspective within the universe. Pairing objects such as flaming stars and a swirling cosmos with a mundane anchor to earth, the artist powerfully juxtaposes the sublime expanse of our skies with the pedestrian.

His new body of work, including one more than two meters wide, shows Jeffers a new direction as his visual style borrows from the distinctive world of his book illustrations. His choice of medium is also significant: for the first time in his art practice he uses acrylic instead of oil.

Also, the works are on wood instead of canvas. There are also two new interactive “mechanical paintings” that reveal the brilliant stars through an old-fashioned lever activated by the viewer.

©Oliver Jeffers

According to Jeffers: “The worlds beyond our world, the clues to which are revealed only when our day’s light grows dim enough to see the dramatic and colorful skies after dark, suggest a vastness beyond our heads.” can understand.

“These are the same minds that get bored of looking for what to play on the radio, wondering when our internet purchase will arrive, or what activities we’re going to be doing this weekend. There may be more to this business of life than we give ourselves time and perspective to enjoy.”

While his art may be unworldly, Jeffers’ inspirations are rooted in the realities of human society. Born in Belfast during the Troubles (he currently lives between there and Brooklyn), he harbors a deep distrust of nationalism, patriotism and isolationism.

Consequently, his art dissects the powerful story of man-made boundaries, of how people treat other people. With this in mind, Jeffers uses the construct of stellar constellations to view human history through a longer lens.

Jeffer’s paintings remind us how often we forget our place in a larger cosmos, that the images we create for arrangements of stars in a night sky only make sense from Earth’s narrow perspective. In the face of humanity’s seeming inability to comprehend the uniqueness of our Earth, Jeffers’ desire above all is to show, tell, and remind that this is the most urgent story humanity must rally around.

Oliver Jeffers.  Photography by Marc Azoulay

Oliver Jeffers. Photography by Marc Azoulay

The paintings in The Night in Bloom are related to Jeffer’s major public art initiative called Our place in space, a 9km walkable sculpture trail which will be on display at several locations across the UK this year. It shows a scale model of our solar system, in which the Sun is 3 meters wide, Earth is 500 meters away and the size of a ping-pong ball, and Pluto is 8.5 km further away and the size of a match head.

Seeing the distances in our cosmos laid out on this scientifically accurate scale encourages us to look back at humanity from a great distance and question how we divide and contest different histories and identities.

The Night in Bloom is open to the public from June 3rd to July 10th praise shadow Art Gallery, 313A Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446, Boston (Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

A special public program and artist talk co-presented by Praise Shadows and Brookline Booksmith will be held at Coolidge Corner Theatre (opposite the gallery) on Sunday 5 June at 12pm with private access to the gallery exhibition from 10.30am to 11.30am for ticket holders.


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