A clear eye

Tara Bradbury
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Leyton Gallery’s Christmas show opens this week featuring a new artist

It generally takes age and experience to develop a clear artistic eye and a focus to execute minute details on canvas, but Kelsey Una is a bit of a special case.

Artist Kelsey Una, 22, poses in front of her work at the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art in downtown St. John’s. — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Una, 22, and with no official art training behind her at all, is displaying her work at the Leyton Gallery of Fine Art over the next six weeks or so, alongside accomplished professionals such as Ginok Song, Anita Singh and Bonnie Leyton.

She started making art as a small child in St. John’s — favouring paints and crayons over toys — and, six or seven years ago, starting painting acrylic pieces. She delved into oils a couple of years ago and quickly found a favourite medium.

Leyton, who owns the gallery, came across Una’s art this past summer at an exhibit organized by the Harbourside Studio.

“Tia (Connolly, artist and gallery manager) both went into the show separately, and came back and said, Wow, that woman named Kelsey,’” Leyton said.

“It was just lovely work and I think it’s got a uniqueness that’s going to grow and grow and grow, but I think it’s already reached a stage where people can relate to it as fine art.”

Leyton usually doesn’t take on artists at the gallery unless they have built up something of a résumé and have demonstrated that they’re seriously pursuing an arts career, but Una has something many other artists her age don’t yet have, Leyton said.

“I haven’t seen it a lot. It seems to me that in a group of young people just learning and just starting out, their eyes aren’t that clear in what they see.”

For the gallery’s annual Christmas show, which opens with a reception Friday from 5-7 p.m. and runs until Christmas Day, Una is showing six pieces, three of them featuring her boyfriend, Justin.

That’s a photo that I found that I just loved. I love the lighting. Kelsey Una, about her Ian McKellen inspired piece

In one large painting, he’s playing the guitar and she has expertly used her oils to create light and shadows, from the wrinkles in his shirt to the cast of the brim of his hat. Three smaller pieces are head-and-shoulders portraits of him in the shower, water cascading down his nose and forming droplets.

Another piece is called “Ian,” inspired by actor Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf in “Lord of the Rings,” one of Una’s favourite movies. Her other painting is a small square of an older man.

“That’s a photo that I found that I just loved. I love the lighting,” she explained. “It reminded me of Caravaggio.”

Leyton also has a couple of pieces in the show, and they are paintings, in lieu of her usual sculptures. It was a decision based in necessity, she explained.

“I hurt my arm so I can’t do sculpture at the moment, and I thought, what am I going to do?,” she said.

“I can actually paint and I’m having fun. (The sculpted characters) are so much my family that I could paint them over and over and I could do a million different things with them. We’ll see where it goes.”

Other artists displaying new works in the Christmas show are Connolly, Iakov Afanassiev, Jennifer Barrett, Brent Coffin, Michael Connolly, Malin Enstrom, John MacCallum, Sue Miller, Michael Pittman, Andrea Pottyondy, Toby Rabinowitz and Louise Sutton.


Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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