Seascapes inspire artist, spur move to Pouch Cove from Toronto

J.M. Sullivan
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Po Chun Lau works on exhibit at Red Ochre Gallery

Making Waves, one of the works by Po Chun Lau featured in a new exhibition at the Red Ochre Gallery in St. John’s. — Submitted photo

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“And I loved the medium,’ she said. “It’s very process-oriented, and forgiving. If you make a mistake you can scrape it off. And it tells you where to go. You start with an idea, but as you work and the wax fuses, you go with it. Every piece evolves.”

The practice of application and removal also lends itself to another element of Lau’s work — memory and remembrance. These, too, shift and judder.

Encaustic allows her to layer and uncover and build up and scratch away, in much the way memory functions.

“I like that action of removing things, which is a physical action, and seeing what is underneath.”

She’s also very interested in local history. She completed a master’s degree in 2010 that concentrated on a sense of place, and she used Pouch Cove as her thesis subject. Part of it was her neighbours.

“I can sit down and listen to them all day long.”

Another part was the vernacular inshore fishery architecture — the wharves and flakes and stages.

“I’m obsessed with these structures. I think they also have a sculptural quality,” Lau says.

In a work like “What Once Was,” one of the larger pieces, she has collaged a shed and flakes over the coastline. It lends an ethereal quality, something both there and not there.

The ocean water, too, while an actual physical presence, is studied in a specific matter. Lau will videotape it, and then slow down the framing as she watches. She’ll also play with the iconic shape of a dried salt cod by, for example, scanning and digitalizing it and resizing it to something tiny.

The fish whose shape is recurrent in the show was given to her by her friend Ted Sullivan. (She’s also worked it into wax and metal.) Again and again, Lau refers to his generousity, and the welcome she has found with so many others.

“I have to thank the people of Pouch Cove,” she said, “for spending their time with me.”

“Spirit of the Sea” continues at the Red Ochre Gallery until July 10.

Geographic location: Pouch Cove, Toronto, Red Ochre

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