Artists inspired by outdoors

Joan Sullivan
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A visual artist looks at the world, and then wields that vision into form. They use their sight, and their insight, to craft their observation into material that can be studied and shared. The two artists in these parallel solo shows work from, and into, their own style and substances: Louise Sutton with oil, acrylic and collage; Jillian Waite with encaustic (heated, coloured wax) on panel.

All of Sutton’s paintings seem inspired by the outdoors, and she works in a natural palette of bright and contrasting blues, whites, browns and greens.

It is a straightforward, and often warm, spectrum, which she applies to two very different types of configurations.

About half of her pieces are realistic landscapes, placing the view in the woods or looking down at the ocean, rendered in a kind of felt, participatory aspect. It is as if we were beside Sutton as she walks.

The others are a type of diffuse Expressionistic abstractions. Shapes are often not exact, and when they are — dots or strokes or spheres — they suggest only themselves. The colours are employed in reaction and response to each other, not to shape a rock or tree.

Sutton has two triptychs of bare trunks and spiky branches, which do not show any roots or treetops, but takes what seems to be an eye-level view.

Because of the subject, the composition is all about lines, but the resulting pattern is not severely geometric or grid-like. The trees curve slightly, with their limbs subtly raised and lowered. The effect is a gentle oscillation.

Then there is a triptych of cloudy greys and russets, a motif she will revisit. This is followed by a faintly hazy seascape. Then comes a piece divided into six panels, alternating arrangements of foggy tones with sequences of bouncing, undulating circles in different sizes.  Another coastline, and two more forest scenes, quiet and sunny and verdant, are also included.

In another piece, one of two collages, yellows and blues float and flicker like a school of conceptual fish. The second collage is an assemblage of small dashing shapes highlighted by yellow, the whole something aquatic and intangible and yet still suggesting the structure and aspect of a seacoast, more strongly than some of the more representational works do. Sutton’s realism works best when it is sharply defined — if it starts to mist it loses shape without gaining the energy and perceptive freedom of these other works.

Waite has views of cities, and beaches, which are distinctly Mediterranean and European. They convey a sensation of heat and time, not just from the selection of the scenes, which often include unpeopled vistas or classic ruins, but also from the thickness, patina and manipulated scudding erosion of the media.

Waite has a perspective of flat on flat, figures and towers and even hot air balloons in their own set plane.

Architectural details emerge in dark lines and figures are built from carefully infilled outlines. Colours drift and spackle, form cascades of fluting white and blue skies, or hunch into the golden hot dough of low golden cliffs.

Skies are abloom with pea-circle astral studdings, behind red streams, softly falling. A repeated symbol of a single house is shown in a negative kind of reversal of light on dark.

Waite works in and out of differing levels of articulation. In one piece, a corner of a window and circular facade jut forward.

In another, the sky is a smooth, horizontal series of beige and vanilla stripes.

The biggest work, a vertical wedge of huge sky over a tiny house and shoreline, shows a tower of white and azure above a pool of indigo, the colours and forms and focus embedded in and held by the textured, worked and striated surface.

Louise Sutton, “New Works,” and Jillian Waite, “Space and Place,” continue at the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art in St. John’s until June 19.

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