It takes all kinds

Joan Sullivan
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Visual arts review Variety is the spice of art in new summer exhibition

A group exhibition is, by nature, an exercise in diversity. This summer show is no exception, with 18 featured artists including between one and four pieces each - most wall-mounted works, but they range through paintings, prints and multi-media.

It is hard to find a common theme, which might in fact defeat the purpose, but a viewer is struck by the careful, delightful, idiosyncratic way these artists see their world. The styles and manners meet and converge, with realism, abstraction, landscapes, portraits and interiors all presented.

A group exhibition is, by nature, an exercise in diversity. This summer show is no exception, with 18 featured artists including between one and four pieces each - most wall-mounted works, but they range through paintings, prints and multi-media.

It is hard to find a common theme, which might in fact defeat the purpose, but a viewer is struck by the careful, delightful, idiosyncratic way these artists see their world. The styles and manners meet and converge, with realism, abstraction, landscapes, portraits and interiors all presented.

But a lot of these works feel deeply personal, distilled through character.

For example, Louise Sutton has "Blue" (oil), which is a confluence of brushstrokes that build into an angle that is like looking up through a grove of trees, limned with an area of gold, directed into an overhead patch of blue. It is not representational, but it feels grounded; it is infused with a spiritual atmosphere, yet is set within something real.

Environment meets bubblegum

Jennifer Barrett's contour paintings are distinctly drawn from the environment but, in her creative process, become mixed in a bubblegum cocktail of funky colours and bouncy lines. Contour drawings are made by an artist outlining a subject without looking at their canvas or lifting their drawing implement from the paper. The results are both recognizable while visually trumping their usual forms. Her subjects here include The Cotton Club, puffins and a phone. The bold colours and continuous dark lines blend into playful, telling objects.

"Worried Animals" (acrylic), is by Toby Rabinowitz, who also takes identifiable shapes and arranges them into fascinating configurations.

Rabinowitz is continuing to enhance her palette by adopting a colour scheme both dark and neon, even as she disciplines her populous canvases which are usually filled with human, animal and plant forms. Here she has lines of flowers and masses of butterflies, five horses, a forest of trees and four flocks of birds, curling in single lines, with some other single birds perched in the coniferous trees. This is set against a dark sky. All her figures are looking out, engaging the viewer. The overall effect is exuberant, and somehow both soothing and startling.

Eerie tones

Greg Bennett has also taken what could be a normal, familiar scene and embedded it with something slightly eerie. "Spring Bonfire" (oil) includes two small panels and one larger, and the elements of fire, dusking sky and gathered figures are all shown. But the people are presented as if they were captured in a multiple, slowly exposed series of photographs, overlaying something ghostly, something not-there, on the sparking white hot flames and the deep purple heavens.

There is dreaminess, too, in Michael Pittman's quartet of works (multi-media on panel). And also something urgent, even agitated. The surface has been covered in paint, which is often then almost entirely scudded away, exposing the grain. Pittman has moved beyond his previous colour fields which included lots of white space, muted tones and creams, to employing reds, limes and chocolates. These hues rip and ripple and pool, composing geometric shapes that suggest reflection, heft and airiness, the paint applied in lines that range from tiny stitches to sweeping curves to scratchings. They imply both landscapes with astral horizons, and wounded interiors.

Other artists include Iakov Afanassiev, who has turned from pristine still lifes to the outdoor scenes of "Salvage" and "Iceberg" (oil); Anita Singh with her bronze petals and cones studding bright monotypes; and Murielle Sampson, who, along with a trio of her signature landscapes, has "Silver," a partial view of a female nude, reclining.

Michele Stamp, Jack Botsford, Denis Chiasson, Rhonda Pelley, Phil Simms and John Haney are also among those shown here.

"Our Summer Show" continues at The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art in St. John's until Sept. 6.

Organizations: The Cotton Club

Geographic location: St. John's

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