Artists look outdoors

Joan Sullivan
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Concurrent exhibitions have common theme

These are two separate, concurrent exhibitions, as opposed to a duet of visual artists composed around a theme. And "Reading A Garden," Margaret Ryall's mixed media and encaustics, and "Outdoorsy," Jennifer Barrett's acrylic and permanent marker on panel, each have their distinct sensibility, in palette, line and subject.

Ryall's works are all rich decorum, while Barrett's are eye-popping exuberance. But they show well together - maybe it is all that gorgeous colour, or each artist's considerable ability to translate their environment into something a little fantastic.

"Treehouse," acrylic on canvas, 22" x 28" by Jennifer Barrett. - Submitted photo

These are two separate, concurrent exhibitions, as opposed to a duet of visual artists composed around a theme. And "Reading A Garden," Margaret Ryall's mixed media and encaustics, and "Outdoorsy," Jennifer Barrett's acrylic and permanent marker on panel, each have their distinct sensibility, in palette, line and subject.

Ryall's works are all rich decorum, while Barrett's are eye-popping exuberance. But they show well together - maybe it is all that gorgeous colour, or each artist's considerable ability to translate their environment into something a little fantastic.

Barrett and Ryall also have a keen sense of observation. They can zero in on what interests them, in a highly individual way. Also, for most of the pieces here, both have situated themselves outside.

Ryall's 30 or so works stem from her residency two summers ago in a converted gardener's cottage in Birr Castle Demesne in Ireland. Gardens fascinate her, and not just because they have pretty flowers. She sees, and "reads" them on historical, social, religious and philosophical layers, and this torte-rich strata is directly referenced in her working methods, which make use of transfers, paint and papers - level after level and view after view building to a lustrous and beguiling patina.

These panels are lovely works. The subjects, usually flowers, are uncurling velvety weights, the colours silky and the surfaces tactile. They are so alluringly stunning it takes a while to realize they are very much about decay and the process of changing and fading.

Ryall's "Preserved," for example, shows a floating floral bloom, and, underneath it, the same object, now crushed. "Continuum" has a honeycombed wedge of roses, so alive in tone they almost lunge forward, but the petals are falling and the plant is being harvested by a bee.

These are also very sophisticated in their treatment of planes of foreground and background. Attention is paid to every inch and every aspect, and the result can look nearly holographic. A spackled blue sky lifts and nearly supersedes the green leaves and orange lily blooms atop it. Subjects as diverse as statues and discarded snack wrappers crackle to their edges. A series of eight small encaustics overlay garden benches with script, a rich calligraphic mood exuding from the letters. Again, the colours are based in nature, but then drawn up through gloss and light.

The result is deeply concerned with texture, surface and a distillation of image that reflects the structure (and loss) of the memory that first perceived that image. And Ryall's work is, simply, so elegant.

Alongside Ryall's poise, Barrett's 10 pieces pretty much make a party. They are abrim with askant, offbeat gusto. They blend funky, crayon tones of purple, yellow and pink with the swift, sure energy of her black contour lines. The subjects are landscapes and city scenes, including a view of L'Anse aux Meadows, a BBQ cart on a Toronto corner and an isolated farm silo. And there are animals, done in something between portraits and studies, of gorillas, beluga whales and a caribou herd.

Barrett's shapes are often repeated, and echoed, adding visual punch. And things are not precisely set; the caribou, for example, are floating in the sky. There is a zesty, should-not-work-but-does alignment and interplay between backdrop and detail. Barrett's works seem such pure fun - and in a sense they are - but they are also full of craft and discipline.

"Reading A Garden" and "Outdoorsy" continue at The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art until June 20. There will be an artist talk with Ryall June 6 at 2 p.m.

Geographic location: Ireland, L'Anse, Toronto

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments