Come 'ere ... till I tells ya

Joan Sullivan
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Craft Council's 'Come All Ye ...' is music for the eyes

"Come All Ye ..." is a musical salutation common in Newfoundland and Labrador folk songs. It is a good title for this three-hander show, as artists Cara Kansala, Pam Dorey and Caroline Clarke have taken very direct inspiration from the lyrics of well-known melodies. And they have rendered this in just about any form you can imagine, including prints, furniture, mobiles and musical instruments.

Clarke's work includes "The Banks of Newfoundland" (all her multi-media works are composed of relief print, chine colle, hand-tinted). All her selections include information on why she chose them: for example, this song is the "... earliest Newfoundland composition set to music ..."

"Safe Once More," chair-wood/acrylic. 84" x 18" x 18" by Cara Kansala/Pam Dorey. Submitted photo

"Come All Ye ..." is a musical salutation common in Newfoundland and Labrador folk songs. It is a good title for this three-hander show, as artists Cara Kansala, Pam Dorey and Caroline Clarke have taken very direct inspiration from the lyrics of well-known melodies. And they have rendered this in just about any form you can imagine, including prints, furniture, mobiles and musical instruments.

Clarke's work includes "The Banks of Newfoundland" (all her multi-media works are composed of relief print, chine colle, hand-tinted). All her selections include information on why she chose them: for example, this song is the "... earliest Newfoundland composition set to music ..."

This is a diptych. On one side is a small personification of "A Cold Nor'wester," a human face with puffed up cheeks surrounded with lines symbolizing direction and energy - the kind of icon often found on old maps. To the other is a view of an oversize schooner leaving St. John's harbour, with areas including the waves and wooden houses delineated with dabs of colour. There is a nice touch with tone, leaving lots of white space to breathe, or even to blow a gale, with swift dark outlines both simplifying and energizing the work.

A second diptych is drawn from "Tickle Cove Pond," Clarke's "all time favourite." One panel shows Kit, the good horse, in a prancing portrait. The second, larger space shows the rescue of Kit from Tickle Cove Pond, the men working together to save the horse, the women and children watching anxiously. There is great care taken with the distinct patterning of each element, like the women's shawls and the clouds and trees, right down to a pair of spotted mittens and a set of floral toques. Adding to the skilful balance, a drape of fabric and a braced foot are positioned slightly out of the frame.

Clarke also has a series dedicated to that complex dance number known as "Running the Goat" - these include an actual goat and three pieces of couples dancing and one of a larger crowd in full flight. The figures here, as elsewhere, have a slightly vintage look, made of wavy, stylized lines resembling early 20th-century cartoons. The faces are left with the barest suggestions or feature and expression. This all adds to the charm, as well as highlights the separate motifs of the backgrounds, which include abstract planes of swirling blue or halvah-thick green, and the clothing, like a short-sleeve dress of red and green ferns, or a skirt of pink diamonds on black.

Kansala and Dorey (who work together under the name Cara's Joy) also have some wall-mounted works, including one, taken from Cape St. Mary's, that lets a flock of seagulls gently drift up the gallery wall, unbounded by any frame. But their forte is the boldly coloured, animated wooden pieces, full of zanily combined acrylic hues and playful shapes, that here result in a guitar ("Mary Mac"), shelves, tables, chairs, ugly sticks and, yes, one pound of maggoty butter.

Most fetching are two mobiles, which fill the windows. "I'se The B'y" includes 25 fish, each unique in its feathered, sequined and/or cross-eyed splendor. One is wall-eyed, orange and yellow-spotted with one snaggle-tooth; another is tiny, black and sporting eyelashes to here; a third is a puffball in blue and purple with green fins fanning into three fingerpoints, a la "The Simpsons." "Squid Jigging Ground" is a cascading chandelier of the creatures, again each its own shape and tangle of tendrils, brown-on-red, white-on-pink, or orange-on-orange.

"Come All Ye ..." continues at the Craft Council's Devon House Gallery until Sept. 28. "The Barrens Project," with work from Jason Holley and Rosalind Ford, runs concurrently in the Annex Gallery.

Organizations: Craft Council, Devon House Gallery

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's

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