Summer show ready to roll

Tara Bradbury
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Leyton Gallery unpacks and unveils annual group exhibition

Leyton Gallery of Fine Art manager Tia Connolly is sitting in the middle of the floor, surrounded by boxes and pieces of plastic, making the kind of mess reserved for birthday parties and Christmas morning.

Armed with a pair of scissors, she carefully slices open boxes, rips plastic and unfolds layers to reveal — one by one — pieces of art that will be hung as part of the gallery’s summer show, opening Friday.

“Mike is very thorough at packing his pieces,” she says as she lifts off a blanket to reveal an artwork by Grand Falls-based artist Michael Pittman.

It’s so new, it still gives off a whiff of acrylic paint and india ink.

Called “Nest” and with a depiction of a rocking chair, the meticulously-executed piece is likely inspired, Connolly says, by Pittman’s baby son, Jack.

The work of 17 artists will be on display as part of the summer show: Pittman, Connolly, Bonnie Leyton, Sue Miller, Rhonda Pelley, Brent Coffin, Ginok Song, Jillian Waite, Toby Rabinowitz, Iakov Afanassiev, Jack Botsford, John MacCallum, Jennifer Barrett, Louise Sutton, Kelsey Una, Malin Enstrom and Anita Singh.

Pieces range from paintings to pottery and — although the artists are never limited in what they can show — themes of water and family run throughout. There’s even a streak of a common palette connecting many of the works, with shades of turquoise and pink.

A dress designer as well as a painter, Coffin is showing two detailed pieces in the show. The first, “Cathedral Gown,” must be seen up close to be appreciated for its incredible depth. On sheer fabric, Coffin has painted the inside of a Gothic cathedral, then cut and sewn it into a lace- and satin-trimmed costume.

The accompanying painting, “The Magdalene,” shows the same dress, on a background of architectural. The longer you look at the painting, the deeper it becomes.

Waite is presenting a series of small encaustics in contemporary patterns and shades: turquoise, fuschia. “Too Blue” and “High View” feature foxes, while “Blue, Blue” shows nine tiny houses, each representing, Connolly explains, a time Waite has moved home.

Encaustic painting involves using heated wax and pigments on prepared wood, and Waite has added shellac in some of her pieces.

“She uses the shellac and then burns it away. Can you imagine catching something like that on fire after you’ve done all that work?” Connolly asks.

For her own art, Connolly is also one to experiment. Her piece in the show combines a monoprint and chalk pastels with ink and watercolour on a piece of frosted mylar given to her by Leyton. The result is a brightly-coloured school of fish that seem to be lit against their underwater backdrop.

Connolly — who says she never feels like a piece is finished unless it has something alive represented on it — admits using watercolours on mylar isn’t easy.

“What’s challenging about it is also the reason why I love it,” she says. “It’s how the water sits. You can only push it a certain amount, and there’s something fun about that. You don’t have full control.”

Singh has contributed a series of pottery bowls to the show, with starfish and floral themes. The underside of each piece is equally as detailed and attention-worthy as the top, and Singh’s designs can often be felt as well as seen.

Other pieces include Rabinowitz’ colourful abstract landscapes, Singh’s thoughtful portraits of children and cats, and larger-scale paintings by MacCallum and Una, showing expert use of light.

Connolly has them all unwrapped and now just has to hang them.

The show will open Friday with a reception from 5-7 p.m., with many of the artists in attendance. It will run until July 27.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Gothic cathedral

Geographic location: High View

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