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"Blue and Orange"
Sean Randall, "Blue and Orange," acrylic on canvas, 60” X 60”.
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"Valley Fall Trees"
Sean Randall, "Valley Fall Trees," acrylic on canvas, 72” X 72”.
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Sean Randall, "Foothills River," acrylic on canvas, 72” X 72”.
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Sean Randall, "All Four," acrylic on canvas, 68” X 68”.
SEAN RANDALL, New Paintings
Keystone Gallery, Calgary
June 8 – June 20, 2007
By Dina O'Meara
You don’t walk into a landscape by Sean Randall, you manoeuvre your way through his vision of fields, scrub and bright skies, attracted by the artist’s use of texture and colour to build a sense of perspective the closer you come to the canvas.
All the components of a prairie landscape are present, made with meticulously narrow strokes of the brush — the sheaths of grain, the leafy trees, a backdrop of mountains in the distance. But the overall effect is a patchwork quilt of perspective. As viewers in the new Keystone Gallery (in Calgary’s Art Central complex) approach Randall’s large acrylic pieces, the complexities of each painting surface as the painter uses a lattice of images to lead the eye through a game of multi-layered visual hopscotch.
The use of a grid to deconstruct a landscape and bring different perspectives of the same subject to a painting is a departure from Randall’s previous, more traditional watercolour landscapes. The work is an unplanned venture into his past as an architect and architectural illustrator. “For me, doing the work was a very liberating way of painting, believe it or not,” Randall says from his home on the outskirts of Regina.
A graduate of the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture, Randall was strongly influenced by painting instructor Gordon Adaskin and the surrealist architect John Hejduk. The New York-based Hejduk designed buildings within buildings, taking geometrical shapes and distorting them into exaggerated forms that weren’t intended to be lived in.
The architect worked off a nine-square grid that, rather than bringing the viewer’s eye to a centre point, created a space at the centre. It’s a technique Randall uses to fill his canvases. “For me it was very liberating to establish an objective system, but then to be completely free and open within that system,” he says.
The artist’s six pieces reflect a structural discipline based on a 15 by 15 square grid. In Wolf Tree, painted in tones of green, purple and the golden light of late afternoon, two leafy trees stand out against the sky in an otherwise bare landscape. As you look closer, each square tells a different story. The boughs of the tree are layered with close-up views of foliage, the undulating field is captured in at different times of day and season.
Each central square in Foothill River offers a tight snapshot of riverside greenery — tree tops and sky are patterned across the autumn crimson and tan of a long vista, with the Rockies standing pale on the horizon. The whole offers a collage effect with snippets of landscape which are compositionally correct, though their colours are unreal.
With All Four, Randall has ostensibly painted a winter landscape, brushing in a few cattle wandering in a grey, cropped field. But interspersed in the painting’s patchwork squares are vivid images of the landscape during all the seasons, allowing viewers to relive the area’s yearly cycle as Randall experienced it.