Jared Betts

The Work : Nymphalidae Phosphorescence
The Subject : Night Glow Highway (1995)

Night Glow Highway (1995)

In 1995, Imago Artist-run Print Shop presented Night Glow Highway, an off-site exhibition where seven artists created an installation of sixteen original prints on road signs along the path beside the Petitcodiac River. The participating artists were George Blanchette, Guy Duguay, Paul Édouard Bourque, Gilles LeBlanc, Marc Cyr, Heather Oke, and Nat Snider.

The exhibition became mired in controversy: the residents of the town of Dieppe complained about the installation because some of its topics were believed to have an erotic connotation. Five works deemed disturbing were seized by the police; two of these had been vandalized, and another work was stolen. This dispute led to a public debate about censorship, giving Imago Artist-run Print Shop unprecedented visibility. The signs were then exhibited at Galerie Sans Nom, which also held a panel discussion where artists were able to exchange ideas about freedom of expression.

Gilles LeBlanc with George Blanchette taking down one of the Night Glow Highway works after they were censored (1995). Photo : GALRC archives

Nymphalidae Phosphorescence

Jared Betts’ series Nymphalidae Phosphorescence is an elegy to Night Glow Highway. By returning to the same site on the banks of the Petitcodiac River, this project enables passers-by to revisit the original exhibition in a new light. Betts has drawn on the technical, formal, and iconographic elements of the panels made at the time to produce a new series, while simultaneously making reference to the hybrid techniques of Paul Édouard Bourque, to the large wings of George Blanchette’s Anges déchus, and to the natural subjects taken from the surrounding marsh by Marc Cyr and Nat Snider.

Faithful to his practice of rendering the natural world abstract, Betts carried out research at the New Brunswick Museum in order to sample the patterns and colours of its collection of indigenous and exotic butterflies. The work’s title evokes his interest in these insects that have a surreal beauty: nymphalidae is the scientific term for the largest family of butterflies and phosphorescence is an allusion to their often dazzling colours.

After having gathered enough material to prepare his compositions, Betts became engrossed in his creation, carrying out technical experiments at the Imago Artist-run Print Shop. The formal innovations that came out of this exploratory work were then amalgamated with his signature pictorial style and fluorescent chromatic scale. His large abstract compositions exist in harmony with the surrounding landscape and offer passers-by the opportunity to plunge momentarily into the realm of the imaginary.

The artist would like to thank Blake Morin, Jennifer Bélanger, Paul Édouard Bourque and the New Brunswick Museum team, Peter Larocque, Mary Sollows and Donald McAlpine, for their contributions to the project.

Jared Betts at work at the Imago Artist-run Print Shop (2018)

Nymphalidae Phosphorescence (glow in the dark effect), 2018, silk-screen, aerosol painting, acrylic painting, and pastel on canvas. Photo : Mathieu Léger

Jared Betts

Jared Betts is a painter who draws from the natural world, travel, and dreams to create unique pictorial worlds in hybrid, colourful compositions. His paintings are made using intuitive gestures and superimposed plans to give shape to nebulous ecosystems that make the visual world abstract, revealing its metaphysical dimension. Betts’ work immerses the viewer in a sensorial experience that draws on contrasts between surface and depth, the graphic line and the spread of the pigment.

Betts was born in Moncton and graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2010. He has carried out artist residencies and exhibited his work in Costa Rica, Iceland, and Japan. His work can be found in several international private and public collections.