Their summer is showing

Tara Bradbury
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Artists celebrate season with group show at the Leyton Gallery

The long winter months, for many artists, can serve as a muse. Beyond glorious frigid landscapes, the season offers time and opportunity for artists to experiment, trying out new media or themes.

The result, artist and gallery owner Bonnie Leyton has found, is like a delayed holiday present for her: she receives meticulously-packed submissions from artists and opens them, never knowing what she’s going to get.

“Sometimes the experiments don’t work, and sometimes they really work, she explains. “In the winter months you can play around a little bit. Maybe that’s why the show is so fresh for summer.”

The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art is opening its annual summer show this weekend, and Leyton  is one of the artists who’ll be showing some experimental work. She has four pieces in the exhibit, each painted on mylar with paper behind them.

“This is my neighbour’s goat,” she says, grinning and gesturing to two relatively small pieces, vivid with texture. Her other two paintings depict bulls. “So many people are using mylar these days, I thought, I’ve just got to try it. It’s really fun, it’s totally different, and you can do really interesting textural things with it. It accepts paints and oil sticks and everything very differently.”

Tia Connolly, who also works at the gallery, is another exhibiting artist who’s spent some time working a little out of her comfort zone, with beautiful results. She’s been dying paper with coffee and turmeric, before using it as a canvas for her sketches and watercolours.

“It’s a lot like printmaking, you know, when you lift up the paper and then you get that moment where you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she says. “I put the tray on top of the fridge and let it soak, because it has to soak for a couple days, and every now and then I’ll get on a chair and look up and say, ‘Look what it’s doing!’”

The show will feature new works by close to 20 artists, including Anita Singh, who has been working in clay for the first time, as well as Audrey Hurd and realist painter Ginok Song.

Photographer Malin Enstrom’s 2013 Arts and Letters Award-winning archival print “Weightless” is part of the show, and was inspired by the joys of childhood in the summer. A black and white photo of a child swimming underneath the surface of a pond, the piece is about being weightless in water as well as in spirit.

There are a number of small, sumptuous atmospheric pieces by artist Sue Miller, who divides her time between this province and Ontario.

 “She always does an underpainting in a really warm colour,” Leyton explains, pointing to tiny spots on the board where vivid orange peeks in. “The underpainting gets covered but it always glows through, so there’s some beautiful light in it.”

Kent Jones has two large mixed-media pieces in the show and mixed mica with paint, giving his choice of meticulous, muted palate a faint glitter.

At least two of the artists chose to paint pieces of their children: self-taught painter Iakov Afanassiev uses deep, rich colours for his piece “Playing Dress-Up,” which shows his two young daughters, their cheeks ruddy and eyes sparkling. John MacCallum’s painting “Ben and Jack” is based on a photograph of his sons.

“It’s a deteriorating photo that he carries around in his wallet. So many dads have deteriorating pictures in their wallet, I think,” Connolly says with a smile.

The show also includes works by Audrey Hurd, Jack Botsford, Peter Gough, Jonathan Green, Carolyne Honey Harrison, Rhonda Pelley, Toby Rabinowitz, Margaret Ryall and Peter Jackson — not The Telegram columnist, but an architect who creates minimal, structured landscapes.

Leyton said she enjoys shows featuring varied media and palettes, and doesn’t like to do themed exhibits, preferring not to limit artists.

“We put out a call earlier in the year, and it’s just one of those shows where people are anxious to get back to work again,” she says. “All shows are new work, but there’s such an enthusiasm and we get so many paintings and sculptures, we’re rushing around trying to find enough space for them.

The Leyton Gallery’s annual summer exhibit will open with a reception from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, and will continue until July 28.

The gallery is located at 6 Clift’s-Baird’s Cove.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Ontario

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