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"Petticoats and snowflakes"
Leah Rosenberg, "Petticoats and snowflakes," 2006, mixed media on panel, 13 inches diameter.
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Siobhan Humston, "twilight's garment," n/d, acrylic and graphite on wood, 23 x 48 inches.
SIOBHAN HUMSTON AND LEAH ROSENBERG, Sweet Raw
Jacana Gallery, Vancouver
June 1 — 25, 2006
By Ann Rosenberg
Sweet Raw combines current paintings by a pair of up-and-coming artists in a show that is "sweet" but never cloying, and "raw" in the sense that it is honest and up front.
Siobhan Humston's gesso-on-board panels grew out of sketches and notes made in 2004 while she was visiting Ireland (the country of her birth) after a nine year absence. Each is an attempt to capture her reactions to the economic and social changes she saw there and to convey her feelings of loss. In her artist statement she writes, "there was no attempt to finish a piece, [only] to work on it until it was quiet." She explains that "in a sense, they have drawn themselves."
In Sweet Raw her panels are arranged in groups or as single accents interspersed with Leah Rosenberg's art which is installed in a similar fashion throughout Jacana Gallery. From afar, Humston's pieces appear to depict one or more brown moths battering themselves against the dazzling whiteness of the background. Up close, it is clear that the insects are actually dying, daisy-like flowers dropping petals into the air. Near and beneath them are bulbs and seeds, carefully rendered in pencil.
Consistent also in Humston's series are drizzles of thin paint that flow from top to bottom in each panel like rivulets of rain down a pane of glass, pooling at the bottom to drown other bits of flowers in red waters resembling blood — an allusion perhaps to the country's "troubles." Always to the left, there is a fragment of a poem or journal note (partly concealed in layers of gesso) which typically contains the title of the work; for example, Soak you in, or Fully, deeply.
In contrast, Leah Rosenberg's art contains dozens of recurrent motifs, not just a handful. Her on-going series, like Humston's, is created on gesso-covered boards and is also based on a single theme; however, in any or all of the pieces you might find the planet earth, stars, rainbows, strawberries, clouds, organic blobs, or snowflakes. In all the pieces, Rosenberg says her intention is to incorporate "personal imagery and narratives from dream worlds in reference to the real world." To achieve a sense of the macro in the micro, she was prepared to "stitch, cut, glue, find, fold, select, melt, stick, sand, saw, decorate, stack, combine, mold, and sew."
To appreciate her inventive playfulness, viewers need to stand in front of her five 13-inch-diameter "dreams" to see how much cosmic serendipity can twirl within these white orbs. The titles help focus attention — partly cloudy sixty eight degrees, petticoats and snowflakes, star showers, bloomer, walk in the wilderness — but beware, they are always used obliquely. In the same composition white, weather-map-style fluffy-sheep clouds co-exist with ones that could have been scribbled down by a hurricane chaser during his or her dying moments.
The "rawest" motif in Rosenberg's section of this well-balanced exhibition can be found in Take me away for the day, an image in which two different cells appear to be mutating.
The dark, almost exclusively monochrome colours in Rosenberg's art prevents it, despite the relatively light tone of its subjects, from being "sweet." By contrast, the pretty colours and flowery subjects of Humston's work does not preclude it from being "raw."