Beautifully broken

Joan Sullivan
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In Diana Dabinett’s ‘Fractured Forms’, the artist distills her inspiration down to its essence

“Orchid 1”acrylic on linen, 12” x 15”, 2011. — Submitted photo

Diana Dabinett has long been interested in the natural world around her, but while her focus remains there her work is becoming less representational. She is getting more and more into the gist of things. This exhibition is titled “Fractured Forms”, but they are “broken” in the (if I may) Heideggerian sense of opening out an artistic subject to find the core.

There is a sense of the elemental in these works, the basic force of organic life and geological form. As well, the bold bright colours cast a heat and the patterns create a rhythm, they dance. These might not seem qualities that can be applied to the Newfoundland and Labrador landscape, which Dabinett has long been taken with, but she attributes some of the inspiration for these pieces to an artist residency in Cost Rica in 2010. The result is some hot stuff.

Many of the titles include the word “shadow”, suggesting the vision is flipped from light to dark, or that the original was blazing in such scorching sunlight that these are almost an after-image. There is an exactness to them, but something fantastic, too.

In “Heliconia Shadow” (watercolour, 11” x 15”, 2010), pink and red petals take wing. In “Leaf Shadow” (watercolour, 11” x 15”, 2010), the differing and overlaid shapes seem inside-out with red veins and pinks and green surfaces against dark blue. In “My Orchid’s Shadow” (acrylic on linen, 14.25” x 34.5”, 2012), the fleshy hearts of red and white and pink are interlaced with tendrils of blue. In all the works the natural contours are given an incredible tonal bounce. A series titled “Orchid Shadow” (all 10 of acrylic on linen) explores this in purple and cream and ruby, the patterns full of impact.

Other pieces take larger views. In “Cathedral Rock” (acrylic on linen, 59.5” x 36”, 2012) walls of stone seem to flow like the water beneath, their tones of blue and purple configuring into a suggestion of the architectural. “Stiles Cove Shore” (oil on linen, 36” x 56”, 2012) captures the coastline in striated oranges and rippling aquas.

Still others come somewhat in between the closely observed floral arrangements and the larger perspective of landscapes. “Shoreline Shadow” (acrylic on linen, 30.25” x 36.25, 2011) has tree trunks and limbs both present and absent, as the outlines are there but the area inside them does not mask but heightens the colours of the view behind. “Tree Forms” (oil on linen, 36” x #1”, 2011) is almost abstract, and the lines flow.

Throughout “Fractured Forms” the subjects are broken down to some kind of basic DNA pattern. It gives them force, vigour. Flowers, for example, are always attractive but these are much more. They have punch. In them, and in the broader vistas, there is a geometric play of grids and layers. There is an essentialism and yet a lightness to the form. And the palette is full of wild drama. Dabinett’s work was often pretty – but these are gorgeous.

Diana Dabinett “Fractured Forms” opens today at 5:30 p.m. and continues at the Christina Parker Gallery until Nov. 5.

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