The Work. Gerald Squires’ “Blaze of Heaven.” Yes, OK, I’ve chosen a painting by Squires again, but I make no apologies. To look at this painting is to experience something visceral; astonishment, and a strange kind of recognition shoot through you, just as the orange glow seems drawn up from the dark earth, to flare like a fist of hope. (You can view it at www.emmabutler.com.)
The Classic. Edvard Munch’s “Madonna” at The Rooms. This is the most famous painting I have ever seen. Heard about her. Read about her. At last, amazingly, there she was. And her presence was palpable. The Rooms promises to continue to display single famous works of art, so check their website.
The Series. Ginok Song’s “Dancers.” Some of these have been included in group exhibitions at The Leyton Gallery, and every piece I see from this surprises me. Some are defused with nostalgia, the forms draped and elegiac, while others are shot with passion and hot, hot, hot. Looking forward to more.
The Animator. Veselina Tomova’s “Harbours and Outports” at Red Ochre Gallery was infused with imagery, dynamism, narrative and memory. The multi-media pieces are composed in a process she developed herself, starting as prints and adding drawing, collage, and other techniques. Each piece is packed with flowers and birds and verandas and maps and sailing ships and cozy hearths and many other things. They are full of a whimsical quirk. And they pop with life.
The Visitor. Ed Pien’s “Haven of Delight” (at The Rooms) contained huge, complex drawings and mounted wall pieces cut from Japanese paper in intricate and seemingly impossible motifs and scenes. There was also an installation of encircling pathways to walk through. Provocative and alluring and sometimes unsettling as this was, there was the added bonus of Pien’s generosity in discussing his work. He talked to journalists, he talked to grad students, he talked to anyone who introduced themselves to him at the gallery. He was genuinely interested in what people made of it all. This added beautifully to “Haven’s” resonance.
The New Step. Barbara Pratt’s “Train,” at Emma Butler Gallery, showed her continuing strength and expanding vision coupled with the kind of focused, detailed-oriented curiosity she has brought to her takes on high fashion. Pratt has shifted from painting satin to big heavy moving metal that she paints like satin. She is always worth a look and well on track to becoming a major national talent.
The Return. It seemed years since we had seen Janice Udell’s multi-media works, but now she’s had several pieces on display at the Christina Parker Gallery. They continue to amaze and entrance with their delicacy and volume. The subjects, like “Artemis,” cast a spell, too.
The Alternative. Eastern Edge Gallery is a year past its quarter century, and the artist-run space remains a hub of openings, discussions, performances, site-specific whatnots and one-offs and all kinds of cool, zany stuff. A scale-model of an outport shed complete with lace curtains, newspaper clippings and an ugly stick? Check. A puppet and a film to accompany same? Done. Metal vessels submerged in liquid, lectures on sub-aquatic Arctic lifeforms, 3-D exhibitions with glasses provided? They have that covered, too.
The New Soloists. David Kaarsemaker and Michael Fantuz both opened their first solo exhibitions this year. Kaarsemaker’s “Forest” filled the Red Ochre Gallery with skeletal and charismatic trees, ghostly yet substantial mummers, and spectral lonely parking lots. Michael Fantuz brought “The Resettlement of Grand Bruit” to the Christina Parker Gallery, big bold expressionist views that take in the dichotomy inherent in the gorgeous, defunct community. Two artists with staying power, and an eye.
The Loss. Ben Arne Hansen, 1927-2010. The Denmark-born photographer had an affinity for the everyday quotidian of outport Newfoundland — buckets under a stage, brooms on a porch, clothes drying on a line — that was artistically unique and culturally groundbreaking and invaluable. Hansen published 13 “picture books,” as he called them, including “Two Visions of Newfoundland and Labrador,” wherein he and painter Jean Claude Roy presented, side-by-side, their duet impressions of provincial communities. Hansen’s book sales topped 90,000, his exhibitions were well reviewed and one of his photos, “The Battery At Dusk,” was featured on a 1992 UNICEF card. A major figure, now passed.