All original work exhibited at new Five Island Art Gallery

Joan Sullivan
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Art gallery review Tors Cove branch expands to downtown St. John's

The new branch of the Five Island Art Gallery occupies 750 square feet at street level, most of it taken up in one big room with buffed hardwood floors, yellow-painted walls, and a big front window with a great view out The Narrows.

The walls are lined with paintings and textile pieces, with a hanging arrangement of shoulder bags in one doorway and an inviting pile of pillows on the floor. A small table in a corner holds two boxes of smaller, unframed artworks. The recessed back space, an alcove two steps down, has a red painted floor and functions both as an office and display area, with a shelf of small sculptures and an armchair for leisurely viewing.

A new branch of the Tors Cove Five Island Art Gallery opened May 4 in downtown St. John's, displaying a mix of artwork including paintings, textile pieces, shoulder bags and pillows. Submitted photo

The new branch of the Five Island Art Gallery occupies 750 square feet at street level, most of it taken up in one big room with buffed hardwood floors, yellow-painted walls, and a big front window with a great view out The Narrows.

The walls are lined with paintings and textile pieces, with a hanging arrangement of shoulder bags in one doorway and an inviting pile of pillows on the floor. A small table in a corner holds two boxes of smaller, unframed artworks. The recessed back space, an alcove two steps down, has a red painted floor and functions both as an office and display area, with a shelf of small sculptures and an armchair for leisurely viewing.

This offshoot of the first Five Island Art Gallery in Tors Cove opened May 4.

It represents fifteen visual artists; together with its parent gallery in the renovated schoolhouse along the Southern Shore their artist roster totals 22. All are Newfoundland artists, and most are on the emerging edge. "We focus on artists who are new and upcoming," said owner/operator Laura Coultas. (Not exclusively though, as Isle Hughes and Julia Pickard, among other established artists, show work in Tors Cove.) "And the work is all original. There are no prints, and no prints are made of these works."

Instead, the artists are creating across a spectrum of media, with a beautifully cultivated nod towards textiles.

Rug hooking is one highlighted technique, and rugs are a Five Island staple, Coultas said. This featured media is expanding, with Ennis Designs, for example, producing a line of fashion accessories including simple shoulder-slung purses in earthy tones with a patch of hooked rug as a centred decoration. These funky pieces are one-offs, priced about $65 - $85, and their design is echoed in the stack of linen pillows (about $65), which also have a central appliquÉd patch of hooked rug.

This artistic company also produces a series of small, three-dimensional figures, iconic Newfoundland characters of fishermen and berry pickers, traditionally dressed and all one-of-a-kind. The textile work isn't confined to these forms, either. Andrea Ennis, for example, has a small, wall-mounted piece titled "Guitar", of mixed fabric and recycled material

The other artwork is hung in an engaging medley of oils and acrylics, in varied and distinctive frames.

The prices, again, are very reasonable. Much of the work is representational, of land- or seascapes. Susan Parsons has a pair of "Northern Lights" (oil on canvas), with a sheer green flow curving over black and lilac winter-frosted evergreens. She also has some smaller oil paintings with the details blooming in tiny brushpoint flares.

Terri Leonard has a nifty range of works, including "Mortimer" (acrylic) a brightly coloured, deftly outlined view of the outport, a well as more monochromatic pieces and one mixed media piece that includes areas shaped with cheesecloth. Joan Roberts has a big "Gerbera Daisy" (watercolour), the petals strong pinks against a white background, and Sheila Coultas has "Sunshine Snail" (oil), an image both simplified and fantastic. Topping off the divergent wares of the gallery, there is also a shelf of pottery, shimmering blue mermaid vases and sculptures.

Five Island wanted to expand into St. John's because Tors Cove is only open seasonally, and that location, thought close to the city, is off the track of such potential clientele as the cruise ship crowd, said Coultas. The gallery is at 134 Water Street, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

We focus on artists who are new and upcoming ... And the work is all original. There are no prints, and no prints are made of these works.

Laura Coultas, art gallery owner/operator

Geographic location: Tors Cove, St. John's, Newfoundland Southern Shore 134 Water Street

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