Alan Wood, "Green Surge," 2000, acrylic and paper collage, 24 x 25 cm (42.5 x 39.5 inches).
ALAN WOOD, New Work
Winchester Galleries, Victoria
November 5 — 26, 2005
By Brian Grison
The new works by Alan Wood on display at the Winchester Galleries's Broad Street location in Victoria BC, are based, according to the gallery website, on the artist's "observations in nature" recorded in his journal notes and sketches. In turn, he says, these are translated into "equivalences in paint." Surely Wood's art is more than his observations and equivalences. That claim could be made by any contemporary artist working from nature.
What is it that really makes Wood's observations and equivalences worthy of attention and comment? I believe it might be a certain "Englishness" perceivable in his art. Specifically, I connect Wood's assemblages of abstracted, segmented ocean-worn rock cliffs, driftwood, lichen, and seaweed with a similar penchant for observing nature developed by English artists working in the Cornish fishing village of St. Ives about 65 years ago. The particular aesthetic and formalism of later generation of St. Ives artists, with whom Wood was associated early in his career, filtered though the look of the Pacific coastline and its weather, has resulted in the British-born Vancouver artist's unique landscape constructions. Further, Wood's small watercolour and acrylic wash paintings of squalls and sunsets are reminiscent of the romantic weather studies of William Turner, filtered through a rough-and-ready American Abstract Expressionism.
Blue Surge (2000), a 42 x 39-inch assemblage and Tidal 3 (2005), a 14 x 20-inch watercolour and acrylic painting on paper, typify the parallel analytic and expressionistic paths of Wood's current work. Blue Surge, a near-pure abstraction, could be a simple view up the face of wind and water ravaged ocean cliffs. A glacially textured, watery blue shape at the base and a passage of brilliant grass green near the top establish the subject and Wood's perspective. In between, the artist employs dual strategies to capture his visceral and painterly dance with the subject. He glues roughly torn or cut paper and canvas shapes to a white ground to suggest the geologic contours of the ancient cliff face. In addition, each piece of the puzzle is coloured and textured to evoke the mineralogical content of the cliff. His colours, applied flat or with metaphoric scrapings, scribblings, and splashes, are appropriate grey browns, grey blues, grey greens, yellowish oranges, and reds — the colours of the bare bones of the sharp edge of the Pacific Ocean.
In spite of its deeper historic references, Wood's Tidal 3 seems more contemporary. With its evocation of threatening weather — like the popular drama of today's weather reporters and predictors of natural doom — this painting conveys the artist's inclination to observe and record, as many Romantics did. With its association with the sublime of the English landscape, Tidal 3 is as primeval as the approach of a vast and overwhelming storm. Perhaps, in this little painting, Wood rem