Former curators hold show before 'Moving On'

Joan Sullivan
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Art review

Jennifer Barrett, Anne Downton and Carolyn Reddy are all former curators of the First Space Gallery in The Commons of the Queen Elizabeth II Library at Memorial. This trio now presents their work in the exhibit "Moving On," which opened Jan. 11. Their framed pieces - paintings, prints and drawings - are arranged in sequence along the long, curving wall. Even with a quick glance it is apparent that these three visual artists create with distinct manner, media and style.

Barrett has four good, punchy paintings, done in various combinations of oil, acrylic and permanent marker. "Blind Contour #43" is a figure in profile, wearing glasses, chin in hand. Blind contours are done by an artist looking at a person or still life and drawing without taking their eyes from their subject or lifting their implement from the surface.

Jennifer Barrett, Anne Downton and Carolyn Reddy are all former curators of the First Space Gallery in The Commons of the Queen Elizabeth II Library at Memorial. This trio now presents their work in the exhibit "Moving On," which opened Jan. 11. Their framed pieces - paintings, prints and drawings - are arranged in sequence along the long, curving wall. Even with a quick glance it is apparent that these three visual artists create with distinct manner, media and style.

Barrett has four good, punchy paintings, done in various combinations of oil, acrylic and permanent marker. "Blind Contour #43" is a figure in profile, wearing glasses, chin in hand. Blind contours are done by an artist looking at a person or still life and drawing without taking their eyes from their subject or lifting their implement from the surface.

They can be quite elaborate nestings of lines that still retain a sense of the object's integral self. Thus, in this piece, the body and clothing crests in lime and apricot waves and furrows, set off by a yellow hand and the crisp centring circle of an orange shirt cuff button.

Barrett does a number of these blind contours, and they are really engaging, lots of pizzazzy colours and a subject recast and (un)rendered, yet recognizable. Her painting titled "Viking" seems modelled from a stamp (Barrett often likes to work from cultural ephemera, film clips or kid's toys and so on), with a figure and settlement in basic pressed outlines, black against brown.

Barrett's two other pieces are "Seacowboy," with a flat bold background studded with star- and angel fish and a cowboy astride a seahorse, and "Sailing over a cardboard sea," with two figures in bold cartoon outlines. This latter is a narrative within a single comic panel, folded newspaper boats worn as hats by the two simplified figures, one sporting a bowtie and one a flower, as they exchange a folded boat and are bordered by the same folded shape.

Barrett has a very definite palette and sense of whimsy - which is actually a little darker than the bright chipper playfulness may first imply.

Anne Downton has several batches of works. There is a quartet of prints featuring horses, their stylized forms floating, or unanchored might be more the apt descriptive, against lots of white space and the odd pattern of interconnective branchings or leafy motifs. T

hese are composed with quiet colours, lots of cream, ochres and olives. There are two bigger paintings done in white and black, with areas of cool, pale blue and green, and a little yellow, featuring, respectively, a bent female figure, and a horse, set against some rising stalky floral tendrils.

There are also six small prints, like manipulated and hand retouched monochrome photographs. These focus on architectural details, like a shadowed pattern of wrought iron fence against a brick wall, exterior metal staircases and fire escapes, or a deeply inset Dutch door. Though at first you might not realize it, most of these spaces are occupied by a human figure - these convey overall a sense of seeming uninhabited, even isolated, passing glimpses of an urban travelogue.

Reddy, in turn, seems amiably taken with a variety of media. There is a relief print, three organic forms embossed white on white, tiny and poised.

There are three loose landscapes, in watercolour with graphite, breezy yet detailed. There are four drawings, done I think from photos or postcards, including a triptych of faces, a dog, four young smiling women, and a pilot, gallant and assured, with his goggles pushed up on his forehead, and his hands in the pocket of his fashionable long coat, open over a good suit, posed under his plane's propeller.

Barrett works with funky found objects and blares of colour. Reddy's pieces combine different media into a kind of immediate glossiness. Downton's work is, somehow, even in its scudding paint, pristine and aloof. Together they make quite a nice show.

"Moving On" continues at First Space until April 14.

Organizations: First Space Gallery, Queen Elizabeth II Library

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