Two emerging Ontario artists, Julia Vandepolder and Mark Bahen, push landscape ever further away from the Group of Seven in a joint exhibit at Studio 21, 1273 Hollis St., Halifax, to June 18.
Their point of view is marked by an awareness of the environmental impact of human beings on the natural and domestic world. Their paint handling is energetic and exciting.
Mark Bahenʼs paintings are exhilarating for their tactile quality in the thickness of his paint and for his unusual imagery of a mass of starlings in motion. He paints the murmurations of the birds as a swirl of tarry dabs against a creamy, peachy sky above crashing waves. The imagery is highly dramatic. The birds are like a portent.
Bahen, a Toronto artist and 2002 Ontario College of Art and Design graduate, also exhibits an enigmatic image of a white stray dog in an abandoned-looking rural building and landscape. His works in this show contain anxiety and mystery; they could be internal psychological states as well as physical representations.
Bahen has exhibited throughout Canada, the United States and Europe, and is represented by both a Toronto and New York City gallery.
Vandepolderʼs small oil-on-panel Open Enclosure series of trees marked in orange ribbon are vivid and colourful compositions of trees against snow. They are arresting in their light and imagery.
Vandepolder uses the visible, energized strokes familiar from some of the Group of Seven, as well as the small-paint-on-board format favoured by the group for outdoor sketches. However, these trees are not free or wild or iconic. They are subject to the actions of human beings, which means as lovely as the paintings are, their main character is under threat and part of human domain.
She also exhibits large, arty interiors which are amazing for their depth and detail, as well as a beautiful handling of light. She is focusing on “a familiar intimate interior space, one in which I have spent most of my life,” she said in her artistʼs statement. “I seek to create observational studies noting the subtle
transitions of light and colour as a space transforms.”
These paintings take weeks of layering thick and thin paint as she is motivated by “the notion of how difﬁcult it is to perceive and observe a quality in something that is so familiar and simple in our day-to-day experiences.”
Vandepolder, a prize-winning 2009 art graduate from the University of Guelph, works out of Caledon, Ont.