It’s a group show all right — 20 different visual artists making a “Splash” with Red Ochre Gallery’s spring exhibition.
Among them is Constance Card, an emerging visual artist with two fair-sized landscapes on the walls.
These are clean, bright paintings (acrylic on canvas), their realism slightly deceptive. The ocean is blue and the fields are green, but the landscape is also composed of coiled and intersecting segments, sometimes sliced like cake layers, and the water reflects the floating clouds in triangulating crests like snowdrifts.
There’s play in the planes and perspective, bold colours and strong forms in the background and foreground. And it’s all just geometric enough to still retain an organic wholeness.
As expected, Card lists Emily Carr and the Group of Seven among her influences. Not as expected, she came across them when she was studying, not fine art (which she has never studied fulltime; aside from some summer school painting classes she’s self-taught) but sociology.
She was researching Carr for her feminism (“she probably wouldn’t have recognized it as that,” Card said) and the Group of Seven for their artistic responses to the political and cultural events happening around them.
Card doesn’t currently work as a sociologist. “I was a few years too late,” she said, laughing. “Sociologists were really needed in the 1960s.” Painting is her work now, primarily landscapes.
The two in this show are titled “Solitude in Ireland’s Eye” and “Newfoundland Splendor.” They are big views, all about the muscle and pulse of land, sea, and sky, although there are touches of human habitation, like a white church cast perpendicular as if it were its own ghost shadow. Above it shines a sun rendered in an oddly apt shade of green.
Impressionism, then, is an influence as well.
“Vincent van Gogh said when he looked at the sun he didn’t see it as yellow, but as orange or white or blue. There are a number of colours within any element.”
Card paints or sketches every day, making sketches from nature and painting in the studio.
“To take the paints outside with me — with a five-year-old it’s just not possible,” she laughed again.
Not that this seems to restrict her much. She’s travelled the province making sketches, right up to the Torngat Mountains, and next hopes to create a series based on Ireland’s Eye.
Working from such landscapes means the compositions are right in front of you, but that doesn’t preclude individual interpretation and perception, which can be unanticipated.
“It always comes out a bit differently than I expect it to,” said Card. “It always comes out better. The surprise often comes from the colours I choose, which really choose me, as I’m completing the painting.
“And I think of the artists who have influenced me, and imagine them critiquing my work. I would love to meet Emily Carr and ask her what she thought of it.”
“Splash” also includes work from Vessela Brakalova, Frank Lapointe, Krista Van Nostrand and David Baltzer, among others.
The show will complete its run at the Red Ochre Gallery today.
Joan Sullivan is a St. John’s-based journalist, author and editor of The Newfoundland Quarterly.