Skip to content

Mixed-media artist prepares for June exhibition in qathet

Dreams, beauty and myth intertwined with a humorous dark side in paintings and poetry

Painter, poet and mixed-media artist Jo Forrest is able to convey perfectly a unique mix of playful humour with what she calls a nightmare-like quality to her artwork. Forrest grew up in Gibsons, but recently moved from Paris, Ontario, to the qathet region. 

“Since I got here, I have been photographing everything and if anything really strikes me from the photograph, that I feel would make a good painting, then I go from there,” said Forrest. “Plus, I write, and if there is something in the poem that suggests an image, then I use that.” 

Solo exhibit

Forrest is preparing for a solo art exhibit in June at the Crucible Gallery in Townsite titled The Painted Word. She said she works in many different directions at once and often lets her imagination take her where her art wants to go. For example, the way a shadow plays with the light on a dog’s water bowl, or the colour and shape of a watering canister. Recently, she found inspiration from a neighbour. 

"My friend who lives up the road has a boat, and I realized that many of my recent paintings are all because of him," said Forrest. "One is the mill [in Townsite] with a reflection on the water, and if you run your hand over [the painting] there is drywall underneath, so there are actual three-dimensional physical waves."

Beauty in the unusual

Forrest paints on masonite and canvas. Masonite is very stiff and doesn't warp or bend like canvas does, but needs frames.

"The canvas paintings you don't have to frame and that's probably the most expensive part of a show for artists," said Forrest.

Her recent paintings, some that will be showcased in June, are examples of the ability to capture beauty in something some observers might find ugly or even frightening. One such painting in her studio is of a towering stack of old shelves engulfed in flames, while another is a close-up of a vibrantly painted gutted fish her neighbour had caught while out on his boat.

"When he flipped over the fish filet, I took my camera out and took lots of photographs, and I said ‘this is going to be a painting, right now,’" said Forrest. "I loved the gorgeous colours [of the fish guts]. The movement of fire is also beautiful; the colour and shape. The minute you see it [the flame], it's gone."

Collage, poetry, painting

Forrest is also a collector of objects, ideas and words, in order to create two dimensional and three-dimensional collages, paintings and sculpture, or what she calls visual poetry. But, the multifaceted artist is also trying to convey a story or feeling to the audience. Last year she and her friend and fellow artist Amy Walsh-Harris started an art crawl in Paris, Ontario, which was a huge success. 

"I did a series of collages called nosferatu - the vampire’s circus," said Forrest. "I’m interested in images that have a dream-like or otherworldly quality."

Since moving to the qathet region, she said has been pleasantly surprised that people are friendly here and talk to one another.

"I grew up in Gibsons and so I'm used to seeing the ocean view," said Forrest. "I'm excited to be here but still getting used to my new surroundings; they are familiar, but different."

In Forrest's artist statement she shares that: "The art illuminates the poem, the poem narrates the art. I say I write about dreams, but it's more like poetry is like a dream in that it follows its own logic. They're small stories, about who knows what, but they make sense at the time. They don't have to be literally true, as long as they're emotionally true."

Forrest said that on average when people look at artwork, they may spend less than 30 seconds looking at it. So she decided to add poetry and words, to allow people to slow down, take more time, and in her opinion it seems to work.

She said sometimes poetry comes first but other times the image does.

"I think writing and painting compliment each other," she added.

Crucible Gallery is located at 211-5831 Ash Street in Townsite. To see a preview of the artist's work, go to

Join the Peak’s email list for the top headlines right in your inbox Monday to Friday.