‘Abracadabra energy’

Joan Sullivan
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Brenda McClellan offers magical coastal views in solo exhibition

“Through the Fog,” by Brenda McClellan. — Submitted photo

“Outport Lights’ is a solo exhibition by Brenda McClellan, 41 oil on canvas paintings of settlements and coves and lighthouses and shorelines in crepuscular suspension.

They are caught at a tipping point between light and dark, liveliness and stillness, a liminal state between the thresholds of a busy, clear-cut day and a cozy, inward night. This allows for lots of interpretation and flow.

The colours are deep and strong, and seem to include absolutely every tone of blue from a velvet astral marine to a translucent indigo sheen.

The brushwork shapes the houses and the moon, the waves and wharves, with a square nub of red dotted here, an aureole of gold flowing there.

These works are concerned with elements, as well as scene, and the familiar rural infrastructure of dory, beach and saltbox is infused with an undulating vigor of starlight, refraction and mist.

The abracadabra energy this produces is almost magic.

Some paintings are named with specific sites, including Happy Adventure, Change Islands, and Burin. But most are titled for their time of night, or kind of weather.

Each is a kind of Ur-harbour, resplendent. In “Moonlight”, the sturdy forms of the houses seem to float between the bouncy, loppy ocean and the centrifugal clouded firmament.

“Fog Around The Lighthouse” is a whirlpool of greens and apricots and violet, with light and air as alchemenically tactile as cliff and metal. In “Outport Celebration,” a whole community seems to be lifting off in a shooting array of rose and copper.

This dynamism stems quite clearly and simply from McClellan’s bold use of paint, which is applied with a scudding zest producing eddies and pools that shape a populated road, rock and tide, a small docked liner, a social club, a cluster of buoys. Some scenes are quieter.

“In The Store II” shows an arrangement of near and tidy inshore fishing gear, and “Solitary” a yacht, sails down, at anchor in a calm dusk.

But others are oomphily vibrant, like “Outport Summer Night”, which merges cream wedges of wooden architecture with a lilac curlicue sky. Similarly, some paintings skew closer to realism while others are drenched in impressionism. Fiercely and deftly concerned with light, they all track it to its source, in a kitchen window, or a hundred of them, in a moon that unfolds in syncopated ribbons on the water, or in the beam of a lighthouse, which projects a surging blaze of red and orange.

By painting these places at night, McClellan can give these special, specific lights full play, amp them up, swirl them across a horizon, tendril them at the scrim of the sea. Lots of luster here, lots of allure. It is very powerful, intriguing work.

“Outport Lights” continues at the Red Ochre Gallery until April 7.

Organizations: The Lighthouse, Red Ochre Gallery

Geographic location: Change Islands

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