More ones to watch

Joan Sullivan
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Visual Arts 2008: The year in review - Part II

It was a year in art too big for one look. Here are five more highlights for 2008.

No. 6. Someone to watch

John McDonald - because his realistic oil paintings (which can be found at Emma Butler Gallery) are vignettes that feature young, urban singles and couples.

It was a year in art too big for one look. Here are five more highlights for 2008.

No. 6. Someone to watch

John McDonald - because his realistic oil paintings (which can be found at Emma Butler Gallery) are vignettes that feature young, urban singles and couples.

In "Just A Little While," a fashionably dressed young woman sits, arms and legs crossed, on a bench set against a stone faÇade. Her expression is ambiguous, and intriguing. Is she looking forward to seeing a friend, or irritated and waiting on an inconsiderate lout of a boyfriend? In "A Small Distance," a woman in a blue coat and scarf and a light blue hat looks out over a snow-covered Signal Hill. The cool crisp air is palpable. The couple in "After" have just had a serious altercation. Though neither's face is shown, there is an arc of distress and forgiveness in his unclenching hands, her touch to his shoulder.

"The Man With the Bible" has a truly captivating format, showing a white-haired man, back on, a bible in one hand and umbrella in the other, in animated discussion with a police officer, whose face is blocked by the man's head, but whose silver-badged helmet and shiny green raingear that protects his uniform are a visual hub that the scene revolves around.

There is some kind of march along what seems to be a wide city street. A nun walks, looking down. Some people on the sidewalk stand and watch. The white-haired man thrusts his arms back. The police officer puts one hand on the man's arm, holds the other out, palm up. The moment is, amazingly, captured.

No. 7. The underrated.

Boyd Chubbs. Chubbs' most recent solo exhibition - "New Work and Selected Work, Ink Drawings and Etchings" (at Christina Parker Gallery, No. 7 - 29) simply confirmed his virtuosity. I hope using the term underrated does not come off as dismissive of Chubbs; he's an artist's artist much appreciated for his precise, lively calligraphic works that have portraits and landscapes popping off the wall. Plus he is a published poet, plus a musician with three releases to his credit. Perhaps because he does so many things so very well people have not concentrated on his visual art. But he's very good.

No. 8. Something New.

Newtopia. This exhibit with its quartet of artists continues at The Rooms until Jan. 9. The concept comes from the contraction of the words Newfoundland and Utopia, and the artists here have taken the idea in some wonderful directions.

John Haney photographed the streets and houses of Pleasantville, a meticulously planned and now deserted community. Peter Wilkins examined the modernistic promise of the Gander International Airport through a variety of media lenses, including Mobius-strip prints and perpetual film.

Scott Walden took his camera to the factories built in the 1950s and his microphone to the people who worked there, pairing imagery and text in a field study of that promising industrial economy. And Janaki Lennie painted five portraits of secretive islands, afloat in their own languorous, futuristic perfection.

No. 9. Some place new.

The AIC Gallery. The Resource Centre for the Arts Gallery moved away from its home base at the LSPU Hall and found new digs at 8 Baird's Cove Rd. (227.0427, a1c@nl.rogers.com). It has since hosted a steady stream of shows, openings, and other events.

The alternative, artist-run space, administered by Gordon Laurin, promises to fill a definite niche on the scene, with its uncurated group shows, thought-provoking topics, and emphasis on linking local artists to the national and international networks (and vice versa).

No. 10. The series to end all series.

David Blackwood's most recent show in St. John's was "New Watercolours: A Form of Mediation," at Emma Butler Gallery Nov. 21- Dec. 6.

These pieces were often still lifes, full of flowers and drenched in light. But that's not all Blackwood is doing these days.

For years now he's been working on paintings related to "Ephraim Kelloway's Door."

This was a real door in Blackwood's home community of Wesleyville. Kelloway didn't paint his house, but, for some reason, in the mid-1950s, he painted his shed door maybe fifty times. Blackwood has painted, drawn and printed this door for decades. Then, in 1985 he created the first of the Red Door series; these are big paintings, 70 x 48, and he has some canvases waiting that are even bigger. This series could ultimately number into the hundreds.

And Blackwood has continuously kept on working with the motif, moving most recently into a new relief collage format.

It seems a never-ending source of imagery for him. In 1990 Blackwood wrote, "Growing up in outport Newfoundland during the 1940s and 1950s I was surrounded by what the poet Desmond Walsh describes as 'the greatness that made this place' ... Ephraim Kelloway was a passing shadow on the land and sea of Bonavista North, but his door remains and the exploration continues."

Organizations: The Rooms, Gander International Airport, AIC Gallery Resource Centre Arts Gallery

Geographic location: Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Pleasantville St. John's Wesleyville Bonavista North

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