Diverse styles blend at lively exhibit

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Gallery 8’s summer show in the feature exhibition room blends the diverse modes of expression of a handful of Salt Spring artists, demonstrating once again the wide range of talent found within one small community.

‘Four’ brings together three veteran artists who have been represented by the gallery since it started with JD Evans, Jerry Davidson and Janis Woode. They are joined by more recent arrival to the island, Tiffany Hastie.

Last spring Hastie could be found at the gallery demonstrating her miniature landscapes, surprisingly realist paintings on the very small scale set as if precious jewels into ornate frames. Her output for the current show reveals the very opposite extreme of her interests, with a series of full-sized abstract paintings.

Some of the most successful pieces of her new mixed-media works reduce the palette to monochrome or just a small shift in tones and put the focus on texture. Different tones are produced by the application of the medium and how light moves over it. In Elemental III, light ripples over a shifting landscape of criss-crossed lines in off-white as the background board is allowed to show through in some areas or the paint is more built up. The work gets a spark of definition in the bottom right corner, where a rough grate of scraped lines allows more of the dark background to be glimpsed.

Another well-executed piece called Interrupting Lines suggests an abstracted mountain landscape. The narrow vertical-oriented board is divided into scalloped sections of colour with two opposing curved lines, but instead of the gradations of blue one finds in scenes of sky and hillsides, Hastie moves from white to cafe au lait in thick daubs of paint as applied by palette knife. Vertical lines are scraped along the very bottom edge to reveal a deep carmine red, which creates a satisfying base for the upper elevations.

JD Evans has a gift for creating magical imaginary landscapes that speak to a collective mythology or dream. The acrylic painting A Memory of Mountains is the perfect example, with sharp snow-covered peaks, softer tree-covered hills and the mirroring of moist skies in a gentle waterway. The palette tends toward the pastel with pink, turquoise and lavender, while the composition is balanced perfectly between the heavier plum clouds above and the limestone-like formations of the mid-to foreground region.

One or two steps beyond this delicately rendered vision one finds Within and Beyond, an abstract work in acrylic on textured paper. Evans employs some of the same colours but in brighter hues and more energetic application, while heavy natural formations are suggested in a deconstructed state. Ragged blocks of colour interact with chunks of deep black, wisps of brushwork and splashes of light for a complex piece.

Jerry Davidson’s photorealist paintings can feel unsettling at times for the way they seem to deliver a window directly into a constructed scene. Yesterday and Today is a study in contrasts, as the name implies. An abandoned prairie house in weathered timber in the centre is backed by a white sky and shortened horizon, suggesting miles of flat nothingness. Very close to the viewer’s plane is the curved windshield section of a modern white car in side-view, door slightly ajar. The immediacy of the just-exited car is set against a house that may have been abandoned during the dusty Depression years.

At the Gate shows another side of Davidson’s work. While still very much realist, the pencil drawing of a teenage girl framed by a wooden gate and post reveals a sensitive touch. The gate may have opened, but her face and body language don’t invite further entry to the home behind.

Janis Woode’s ability to capture human motion and even emotion in wrapped wire sculptures is well-documented, but she keeps extending her understanding of form and movement. Where My Dog Takes Me is one lovely example of the dog walking the master. Set on a span of wagon wheel hub, the dog is leaping off into space with just hind legs on the edge of the arc, while the human’s arms and legs are as extended and taut as the leash.

But it would be hard for a journalist not to find a favourite in Deadline, in which Woode’s  small human figure is trying to outrun the minefield of a vintage typewriter, spikes out. The mix of anxiety and humour is all too tangible.

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