Hutchings' technique lends dreamlike effect

Published Oct 30 2014 by Elissa Barnard, Chronicle Herald

Stephen Hutchings has an unusual technique of charcoal and oil for his monumental South Shore Nova Scotia landscapes.

The technique softens and fades an image, giving it a dreamy, otherworldly quality.

These paintings are technically amazing in capturing, for example, a sky pattern and light reflecting in still water by a marsh or a curving South Shore beach with its pure white sand.

This technique reaches an apex in Sturm Und Drang, a massive painting of a storm over the water, with the intensity of a psychic internal storm.

Hutchings visited the South Shore in August 2013 and took photographs to create paintings that, he says, describe the sensation of “being at the edge of the world.”

“Our experience of life is heightened at the edges of things, at moments of transition or change,” he says in an artistʼs statement.

The Halifax-born artistʼs process begins with a digitally manipulated photographic “sketch.” He draws on it with charcoal and eraser, then layers thin oil glazes over the drawing for mysterious and luminous treatments that transcend a familiar landscape.

Hutchings, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, lived in Banff, Alta., for almost 30 years before recently moving to Ottawa.

His work is in many public collections, including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. He had a major travelling exhibition, Landscapes for the End of Time, in 2010.

Leonardʼs work seeths with intense colours, energized lines Janice Leonard has turned Paradise, Annapolis County, into the south of France in her exhibit, Varnished Views of Paradise, at Studio 21 Fine Art, 1273 Hollis St., Halifax.

Her acrylic-on-wood panel paintings gleam in yellows and golds. The sun is an energized white yellow ball of aggressive circular lines. You can feel the heat, hear the crickets and cicadas.

Leonardʼs exultation, intensity and energized use of line recall Van Goghʼs South of France paintings.

The Halifax artist, who grew up in Paradise, cuts through her paint with a forceful line that describes the scene but also energizes and abstracts the surface.

In her artistʼs statement, Leonard quotes Ernest Bucklerʼs The Mountain and the Valley, now being adapted into a stage play by Governor Generalʼs Award-winner and Sambro playwright Catherine Banks.

“The near-evening sun seemed to thicken the grass and varnish it with the bright yellow-green before thunder . . . the whole place had drawn all its life back within itself. It was like a house youʼve always lived in, at the moment of leaving.”

Like Buckler, Leonard knows the Annapolis Valley landscape and history intimately. She is from Paradise; her family roots go back to the 1700s. Her paintings, named for their date and time, like a diary, are also named for places like Leonards Brook.

In Paradise, she experiences “the sense of timelessness,” she says in her artistʼs statement.  She paints in her Halifax studio from quick on-site drawings and notes sheʼs made in Paradise. “This distances the works from reality, making them appear more like postcards of an idyllic place. I use tinted varnish and the surface of the wood to give the painting a historical patina. Sealed in this amber, it takes the landscape out of the present and describes the memory image.”

The Annapolis Valley has captivated artists, including Tom Forrestall, Sara MacCulloch and, of course, Alex Colville. Itʼs important for farming, itʼs also important for its poetry and spiritual release.

Leonard has mined many times this landscape that she loves and that is so essential to her. Her intimate knowledge of it and her skill at visualizing her feelings make this a great show for a long-established artist, who never stays still.

Original Source

Studio 21