‘Inspiration along the coast’

Joan Sullivan
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Sarah Hatton’s ‘Wake’ explores the balance between the province’s light and dark

In Sarah Hatton’s “Wake,” gorgeous image flows after gorgeous image: rock, ocean and wood painted with a palette of luminous naturalism and a brush that gives the objects both their representational shape and the essential elements that compose it.

This is especially striking with the depiction of water, as it sprays and fumes with a lacey jewelled tactility. But even the eroding wharves and decaying gull skeletons possess a resplendence.

“James Baird invited me to visit Newfoundland last year to see if I might find some inspiration along the coast,” Hatton explained by email.

“I knew of the artist residencies he had organized for decades in Pouch Cove, and was very intrigued. Within hours of setting foot on the island for the first time, I knew I was hooked. So, I have returned with this new body of work based upon my first impressions.”

Hatton’s series of works have included portraiture (“Role Models”), pastoral (“Green”), and incredible op-art abstraction (“Bees”). An eye for, and attention to, patterns unifies them.

“My interest in human nature and my curiosity about the natural world are found throughout my paintings and mixed-media work, and these interests always seem to intersect around notions of longing, transition, mortality and human connections with nature,” Hatton said.

“I have always been drawn to the edge of the ocean, and I respect the depth of power that it holds while being simultaneously so picturesque. Newfoundland itself seems to maintain a fascinating balance between hope and despair. The idea of the balance is what I took away with me, and is the reason behind the exhibition title: “Wake,” a word that reflects both meanings. There needs to be a balance between dark and light in everything I do.”

Hatton is formally trained as a painter, but when it comes to her working methods she thinks outside the paintbox.

“I always work with what I feel is the most appropriate medium that my ideas dictate, no matter how unusual. A notable example is a series of ‘Bee Works’ that I recently created with thousands of dead honeybees encased in resin. I did this to raise awareness of the global bee decline, using bees that had perished in my own hives.”

She usually finds herself in the studio in the evenings, “but I attribute that fact more to having a young daughter with a million interests, rather than to any sort of creative preference.

“I will, however, fully admit to having had several of those stereotypical ‘Eureka’ moments that wake you up in the middle of the night, and force you to get up and write it all down.”

She’ll bring that kind of artistic generation to her next project, expanding her “Bee Works” series.

“I am very passionate about the issue, and unfortunately, the problem is getting worse. The recent media attention that the series received has led several beekeepers to send me boxes of their own dead bees in the mail, and this whole project is growing and gaining momentum in a strange and interesting way.”

For more about this work visit www.sarahhattonartist.com/bees.

“Wake” opens Saturday at the James Baird Gallery and continues until June 20.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Pouch Cove

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