Pondering private moments

Joan Sullivan
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“Private Moments Revisited” is the newest exhibition at The Leyton Gallery, a duet between Ginok Song and Bonnie Leyton.

Song is primarily a painter, while Leyton’s work (this time) is three-dimensional, and the two converge within the broad definition of the theme.

What constitutes a “private moment,” especially in this Facebook and CCTV age, when our image is captured and transmitted over and over again, sometimes with our knowledge, sometimes without? The word itself can mean something special, separate or sensitive.

Different cultures subscribe different values to privacy, and some have no word for it at all.

And why “Revisited”? That implies memory, recall.

Song’s artist statement specifically refers to this: “This series is based on memories of the artist’s childhood … to ordinary moments of isolation and growing up.”

So, as a starting point, these works are personal.

Leyton’s “True Confessions,” which includes a girl, a television set and a handmade book, is a good example. When Leyton was little, she idolized Barbara Ann Scott and longed to be a famous figure skater like her heroine. She practiced and practiced, and dreamed of making her dazzling debut on the ice. But, when she did have a chance to perform, things did not turn out as she thought they would.

Both Leyton and Song have created and presented figures and scenes full of significance and character.

Leyton, with her expressionistic clay sculptures painted with acrylic, leaves no whimsical, telling detail aside, whether it is how a foot does not quite touch the floor, or the level of wine in a wineglass.

Song, working in oil and canvas, employs her brush with realism, but also heightens and infuses the work with story, drama, even myth.

“Apple For 1” shows two girls in white dresses, in a field with a cloth spread between them on the grass. One is passing a piece of red fruit to the other. There is so much of fairytale, and actual adolescence in the gesture.

“Intermission” shows a young woman in evening dress, seated at a restaurant table, the furniture draped in white fabric. It is a formal setting, and a resonant one; she leans slightly forward, she looks off to the left, she is alone, but she is waiting.

In “Summer Shadow,” a girl is in profile against a sunlit window — thresholds like windows are a recurring motif.

“Abigail’s Window” looks out on a girl in an overgrown garden with a white horse; it is a borderline wild space and, somehow, it is joyous, even magic.

“Summer Sisters” is visual alchemy of a different kind. Inspired by an old photo, it shows two smiling little girls clasping hands, wearing too-short yellow dresses that may be their favourite best ever, even if they have now outgrown them. In the background a car is parked by a clapboard house, as if one of them has just arrived for her regular summer trip, a much-anticipated reunion.

Song also has a way with painting cats, depicting them with great personality.

In “Your Play,” for example, a black cat holds a woolen mouse (coloured pink, white and green, a colour scheme that can be found in other paintings) and stares beguilingly up at the viewer.

As for Leyton, who else would sculpt a disposable coffee cup? A shopping cart? A garbage can? These details, precisely shaped and boldly coloured, bring her pieces — her people, “The Art Lover,” “Mall Guys,” “The Bar Girl” — to life.

“Private Moments Revisited” continues at The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art until Sept. 30.

Organizations: Apple, The Bar

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