Visual Art Top Ten 2012

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Joan Sullivan looks at 10 works or shows that rocked the walls this year

No.1 The way with light — Barbara Pratt, “Ships”. The subject matter was monumental, and the crafting equal to it — big shapes fused with sculptural light. Pratt so knows what she is doing, and such a variety of things attract her, from fashionably cut fabric to tulips in demitasse cups to curling metal trains. What will she look at next?

No. 2 The other way with light — In David Kaarsemaker’s “Night” series, urban night scenes are defined by dots and orbs distilled into a lyrically illuminated Morse code. Kaarsemaker likes to project geometric texts over natural vocabularies, and here these floating lights are their own constellations,

No. 3 The breaker of moulds — Di Dabinett knows her art inside out, so she can crack it open, splinter and layer it into an entirely new presentation. In “Fractured Forms” the paintings unfolded into views of an underscoring, overlying mosaic of commanding and cohesive patterns.

No. 4 The solo debut — Julie Duff “In Bloom”. Flowers are pretty and these were very much so, but their loveliness lay not just on the surface. These have a volume and presence lending an impact beyond the superficial.

No. 5 The portrait — Clem Curtis’s “Torn and Frayed (Portrait of Joel Hynes)” is a big piece, beautifully painted, with a soul-true expressiveness and striking animation. It considers and measures the viewer as much as vice versa.

No. 6 The New Romantics — this trio of young visual artists brought the 18th century movement into 21st century focus with their multimedia works. In paint, pen, and video projections they gestured towards a contemporary environment both weighted by and derelict in fauna, economy, and migration. This produced a tone blending a look-forward surrealism with a what-has-been-lost hauntedness. The exhibition rewarded repeated visits.

No. 7 The archivist — Michael Fantuz’s deep interest in outport communities, whether abandoned or continuing, has fuelled a number of notable excursions. In “Between Tides” he discovers and taps into a continual throughline of existence running between places inhabited and bereft. In both spheres the energy of his brushwork invigorates his subject even as it preserves it.

No. 8 The architect — In Fogo and Bonavista and Salvage, Peter Jackson sees the essential lines and planes in the simple, vernacular buildings and settlements constructed for comfort and for industry. These he extrapolates and highlights as needed, designs of function and play.

No. 9 The storyteller — Viewers tend to see stories in paintings, but visual artists like Ginok Song strongly invite such interpretations. Her narrative frames are single evocative glimpses into unfolding stories. Their realistic forms are fitted with a train of suggestion, history, even fairy tale.

No. 10 The explorer of worlds — Jessica Scott blends biological and psychological theories with idiosyncratic imagery and launches it into optimistic otherworlds. Her bold tones and synergetic configurations are full of visual and emotional connotations.


The lookahead — Mary Pratt at The Rooms May 11 to Sept. 1 2013. A major retrospective from one of our most important creative artists.

Organizations: The Rooms

Geographic location: Fogo

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