Echoes and refractions

Joan Sullivan
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'From the Beginning' and 'Building Up/Wearing Away' exhibit opens at Christina Parker Gallery

Two very fine solo exhibitions are showing in evocative and resonant counterpoise at the Christina Parker Gallery.

Michael Gough's "From the Beginning," and David Kaarsemaker's "Building Up/Wearing Away," are absolutely solid and skilled as stand-alone shows, and yet viewed together they are also full of echoes and refractions.

In two distinct and individual visual vocabularies, these shows are attuned in talking about place, and how one feels in a place.

Gough works in multi-media (including acrylic, acrylic transfer, pastel and graphite on board and panel) and creates dreamy vistas, where famous architectural facades arc into the foreground or tendril into a structured foundation, or a young girl's braid and turning shoulder.

Every mark and every colour conveys the sense that it is applied just enough. The scribblings and calligraphy that fuse the works into paintings-that-are-drawings, or drawings-that-are-paintings, may make a viewer think of Cy Twombly.

Gough's work though, is fairly representational - there is a fishing stage, there is the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral - but the positioning and juxtapositioning are instinctive, abstractedly narrative.

The pieces are medium-sized to large, and regardless of scale retain a "sketchbook" feel, partly from the type of lines; observant, quick, capturing this scene here, that pose there, and overlapping them with sections of scrawled text.

Colours are carefully, exquisitely placed, in a red shed door ("The Return of Something Lost"), the deep blue of the most inner wash of sea ("...Brigus I), or an orange line curling the sky ("Far From Here"). There is a lot a white space, and this implies that everything is floating, buildings and people alike aloft within the frame.

There are reoccurring motifs, like St. Paul's, as well as some more vernacular Newfoundland buildings, and the young girl, who is the focus of one work, and a feature of others. In the diptych "A Year Later," St. Paul's is reflected in itself, adding to the impression of reverie and trance.

Kaarsemaker is also working in mixed media (including oil, acrylic, and ink and acrylic on canvas), and depicts the world around him - forests, gullies, highways.

And he regenerates these environments into patterns, both external and interior. Sometimes crisp, bold map-survey graphs are imposed on a landscape, or a square slanting, rock-strewn trail is encircled in white.

Other times, as in "The Tower", a form has been transfigured into the bright points of mathematical relationships; or, in "The Ash", a grove of trees appears as ghostly spectres; or, in "The Flood", the upper section is partially obscured into a taut, blurred mosaic.

As Gough recalls Twombly, Kaarsemaker in turn suggests Ed Burtynsky and his huge photographic portraits of the "industrial sublime."

But Kaarsemaker's work is more natural in timbre, more natural in rhythm - more natural, period. Kaarsemaker uses the blues and whites and browns and green of the world around him, but in shaping the forms he also makes patterns and grids, as he exposes the piles and the arrays, expressed in their perceived 'beneaths' and overlays.

These can be figurative ("The Mine"), or a delicate play of almost monochromatic there/not there ("The Horizon").

And the configurations are also seen to hold ciphers.

In a series of "Night" paintings, lights are presented as almost a Morse code, a secret, intimate message of dots and dashes, black and white and precise applications of colour signalling the mystery of a city after dark.

"From the Beginning" and "Building Up/Wearing Away" continue at the Christina Parker Gallery until May 12.

Organizations: The Horizon

Geographic location: St. Paul, Newfoundland

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