Petals and paint

Joan Sullivan
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Red Ochre Gallery hosts 'Blooms, Breezes & Bergs'

Spring, taken as a season, may not always be recognizable as such in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it does have its portents.

The 19 visual artists in Red Ochre's "Blooms, Breezes & Bergs" have found signs and signals of spring in ice and wind and European sidewalks and Trinity Bay harbours and, especially, flowers, flowers, flowers.

The exhibition is almost without exception brightly and boldly coloured, a technique seen perhaps most strongly in Ilse Hughes' "Trinity East" (oil on canvas).

This is an elevated view of a cove and houses. And while the architecture and flora may be familiar, with the saltbox houses and grassy fields, the palette seems baked in the sun of southern France until it is hot, almost electric.

There are purples, oranges, greens and yellows, whites and aquas, and each is applied with a distinct line, in waves and pocks and crosshatches. It is a vivid piece, dynamic enough to warm a room. Hughes also has some skillfully rendered bouquets in vases.

More blossoms are found in oil on canvas paintings from Vadym Vaskovsky, in "Lilac Fragrance" and "Rhododendrons." (This artist also has a couple of landscapes included.)

These are filled with hues of violets and plums, the brushstrokes shaping the petals and stems with a blurred precision that infuses the forms with light, and life.

This kind of effacement, a play with and selection of detail, is also found in David Baltzer's "Broughton Market, London", and "San Francisco Steps" (both oil on canvas).

The former is a big piece, lively and alluring, with shoppers busy milling amidst street stalls offering such wares as carefully aligned baguettes. In the background are tall buildings depicted with historically significant, ecclesiastical lines.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the slightly hazy patina adds an element of crispness and animation.

The same is felt in the latter painting, with an exterior stairway done in shadowy blacks and whites with integrated shades like yellow, all a backdrop to a clutch of about-to-open lavender tulips.

The scene is so immediate it can't be pressed into and preserved on the surface. The light has already shifted, and the players re-arranged themselves.

A different kind of re-assessment is displayed in Sheila Hollander's acrylic on canvas paintings.

She researches her subjects, period streetscapes or community views, so structured and peopled as to resemble a kind of diorama.

But then she will also lark about with this visual information.

"He's Talking Promises", for example, shows Joseph R. Smallwood on the campaign trail, on a soapbox on a wharf in an outport, his stump speech punctuated by an election sign posted here and there.

The audience, the dories, the houses, the store with its signboards, all these things did exist, but perhaps not in this exact configuration Hollander has recalled here. The political and social data is used as an artistic tool.

There are a lot of eye-catching works here. George Horan's "Grounded" (watercolour) has an iceberg clouded with blues and underscored with a slim line of green; Veselina Tomova's accomplished mixed media pieces include "River of Milk and Honey" with its burnished, elegant lines and tints; Natalia Charapova's royal-icing-whipped oil paintings blend her lilies and irises with rural scenes like "Greenspond," and Jennifer Morgan's "Bestrewed with Flowers" is a print of an interior from Hawthorne Cottage, Brigus, set with a potted orchid and a postcard, overlaid with floating blossoms. And the above is but a very short list - there is much more.

"Blooms, Breezes & Bergs" continues at the Red Ochre Gallery until May 5.

Organizations: Red Ochre Gallery

Geographic location: Red Ochre, Trinity Bay, Southern France London San Francisco

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