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Suzanne Swannie Zodiac: Sagitarius 2012
Suzanne Swannie Zodiac: Sagitarius 2012

Suzanne Swannie, Zodiac: Sagitarrius 2012
16 Mar 2013 – 21 May 2013

From time to time, MSVU Art Gallery presents exhibitions of art drawn from the Mount Saint Vincent University Collection. In this grouping of recent acquisitions, the importance of colour is the quality shared by otherwise disparate works. “Chromophilia” means “love of colour.”

The selection of works by Nova Scotian artists and artisans includes encaustic paintings by Peter Dykhuis, ceramics by Lucky Rabbit Pottery (Debra Kuzyk and Ray Mackie) and textiles by Suzanne Swannie.
Over the centuries, including the twentieth, colour in art has been disparaged as “superficial” or “cosmetic” by certain Western critics and theorists. In his book Chromophobia, David Batchelor describes the many attempts to purge colour by characterizing it as symptomatic of a corrupting influence—such as the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological. One prominent educator at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design went so far as to advocate black and white as “the look of intelligent art.”

The hierarchical thinking that privileges line or design over colour also raises art above craft. However, the selection of art and craft in Chromophilia dispenses with binary distinctions. It encourages viewers to consider the versatility of colour as a decorative, structural and expressive element.

When viewed from the side, the footed bowl thrown by Ray Mackie and decorated by Debra Kuzyk balances a gracefully contoured silhouette against the lively, graphic surface design on its outer wall. When viewed from above, the mutually intensifying reds and greens of the bowl’s interior appear independently of the bowl’s silhouette, giving the vessel a dual personality defined on the one hand by line and on the other by hue. Equally decorative in its effect, the pooled, dripped, greenish-blue glaze on Mackie’s Swimming Rays poetically evokes the ocean.

Suzanne Swannie’s miniature Zodiac tapestries demonstrate a design principle similar to Deb Kuzyk’s, in that high chroma hues are never adjacent, but always separated by a thin black line or by wider bands of black and white. In Swannie’s carpet study Brud, the adjacent red and orange fields are nearly indistinguishable—but the optical ambivalence of these closely valued colours is offset by the bold tonal contrasts of geometrically defining black and white bands. The combination of analogous colours and contrasting values produces the spatially dynamic effect of planes sliding over and under one another.

The resemblance to pixels in the weave pattern of Swannie’s tiny tapestries resonates with the modular composition and broken colour daubs of Peter Dykhuis’ multi-panelled encaustic paintings. Dykhuis’ subject matter and colours are appropriated from the computer screen, whose luminosity is approximated by the translucency and sheen of pigmented beeswax. Both paintings reproduce satellite weather maps issued in association with Hurricane Juan (2003). Their brilliant hues are offset with zones of white or panels of “pixelated” black striping. These serve to accentuate the graph-like structure of the paintings, complimenting the “info-graphic” connotations of colours that have been selected for bit size rather than beauty.

Opening ReceptionJoin us for the opening reception and meet the artists on Saturday, 16 March from 3 to 5pm.

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Exhibition Images
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Lucky Rabbit 2 Chinese-style Bowl Red FlowersPeter Dykhuis, datapainting.4     

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