Paradigms – a prime perspective of paintings by the Arion Art Group @ Whitespace
Paradigm: ‘a typical example, pattern or model; a standard perspective or set of ideas.’
The Arion Art Group has an evolving membership of visual artists based in and around Edinburgh, who share ideas, influences, style and technique through their own artistic perception of the world.
This pop up exhibition at Whitespace Gallery features the distinctive work by four Arion artists, Louise Todd, Catherine Young, Hazel Brady and Jayne McIntyre, covering portraiture, figurative studies, abstract land and seascapes.
Louise Todd specialises in visual culture, Festivals, events and tourism as Associate Professor at Napier University. This academic research informs her artwork through the observation of people and places. the experience of the tourist through photography and sightseeing: this is the art of travel, past and present.
Louise crafts meticulous cool, crafted compositions which capture the faded look of those vintage, out of focus snapshots lurking in a family photo album.
The apt title Deckchairs, somewhere clearly implies a long-forgotten holiday, now just a hazy memory of a couple sitting in the sunshine, who stare directly at the photographer. The girl in a lilac dress has her arms folded and legs crossed, as if not entirely at ease with having her picture taken. The thick brushstrokes create a blurred, washed out veneer with a soft rosy pink glow, across the sky, perhaps denoting sunset.
Several figurative studies capture similar moments as if posing for the camera lens: on a voyage of discovery, at an Intermediate stop off: Port of call, two cruise passengers stand at the railing of the ship against a backdrop of the sweeping bay of a coastal resort and looming mountains beyond.
‘I am interested in narratives of visual culture in tourism, and the tourist gaze, how we experience and perform tourism. My artwork intersects how we gaze as tourists with curiosity and a reflected artist’s gaze upon tourists’.
‘Hotel Room’ (1931) by Edward Hopper captures the loneliness of the modern city, a central theme in his work (Hotel Lobby, Nighthawks). A woman sits on the bed in an anonymous hotel room, her coat lying on a chair beside her suitcase. We are voyeurs observing this solitary, rather sad figure, intently reading a brochure, lost in thought.
The intimate, private space of a Hotel Room is also the focus for Louise Todd as part of her voyeuristic gaze on travellers on vacation away from home. Here, a shadowy figure perches stiffly, rather than relaxing, on the edge of the bed, again reading, perhaps a city guide book. The curtains are open to reveal the dark night sky outside, the whole scenario like a freeze-frame from a movie.
With a similar filmic approach to portraiture, Jayne McIntyre presents a series of stunning, striking faces in close up, expressing sadness and emotional conflict: in Pensive, the shimmering facial expression depicts narrowed, blank eyes, pursed lips and furrowed brow.
‘I work from observation, photographs and memory. The cropped, blurred or unfocused source material allows me to fashion the narrative and emotion I am trying to convey to the viewer’.
These intriguing, hidden narratives imbue a feeling of empathy for the sitter’s state of mind, such as the dramatic portrayal, Despairing – the woman holding her head in her hands with such a haunting, lost expression.
This is clearly reminiscent of the iconic vision, The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch, inspired by “a gust of melancholy .. anxiety and fear’ he felt one day when out walking with friends. His message written in pencil on the frame, ‘Could only have been painted by a madman,” depicts his sense of alienation from the real world.
Jayne also brilliantly evokes a dark, melancholic mood in Worried, in which the girl’s anxiety is etched across her face and in her wide blue, tearful eyes, crafted as a textured collage of mixed media, acrylic and tweed. Another mesmersing, haunting portrait indeed.
The world of nature captures the imagination for Catherine Young who has a decorative, free-flowing, calligraphic style, akin to Chinese or Japanese ceramics and illustrations. While minimalist in detail, the abstract landscape, Riverside does envisage the flowing movement of the river and shapely, shadowy trees reflected on the water. A lovely, languid sense of silence and solitude.
‘The natural environment provides a rich source of inspiration to explore both form and shape. Colour is very important to create both mood and atmosphere through layers and texture – my work may appear spontaneous it has been carefully considered’. Catherine Young
The soft shades of pink, green and aqua create a luminous sheen to Shore Edge, almost giving the translucent effect of watercolour. The fluid, crisscrossing effect of brushstrokes is loosely layered, framing the overall shape of the scene in a delicate, precise pattern with a subtle glow of light.
Sharing Catherine’s passion for the natural outdoors, Hazel Brady loves to be surrounded by trees, the key subject of her artistic endeavours. At the Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, the tranquil pond with Monet-esque waterlilies is a popular spot to sit and relax, where children throw bread to the ducks.
The border of trees around RGBE, Pond cast a marvellous mirror image on the calm, rippling surface of the water. This enclosed, partially hidden oasis is a natural habitat for birds including a rare kingfisher; the dark shadows and rose-coral light suggests this enchanting view of the duck pond may depict a quiet moment towards the end of the day.
‘Studying Herbology at Royal Botanic Garden has given me an in-sight into the power of plants and trees .. and how form and colour are affected by light and the perception it has on the human view’.
With a brighter rainbow palette of emerald, lime, indigo and orange under a glorious sky bathed in peach tones, Garden View illustrates the colourful, exotic world of the RBGE. Thick brushstrokes create a glossy shine over the lush green foliage – in the foreground could be a cluster of Gunnera manicata – the giant leaves are a natural umbrella. Trees and plants were originally brought back here by intrepid collectors from distant lands a century ago – the Monkey Puzzle trees, orchids and fragrant flowers which still flourish in the Botanics for us all to enjoy today.
Paradigms: Louise Todd, Jayne McIntyre, Catherine Young, Hazel Brady
Whitespace Gallery, 76 East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ
29th October – 2nd November 2022 : open 10am – 5pm.