Review by Michael Oliver
The ninth annual Great Garden of the Gulf Juried Exhibition opened at Confederation Centre Gallery on March 23rd. The exhibition is made up of twenty works by seventeen Island artists, chosen from almost one hundred and fifty works submitted by more than seventy artists. Nature, animals, and children are the common themes. The works are mostly paintings, with one video and one clay sculpture.
Two curators from off-Island, John Murchie and Robert MacKaskell, were the jurors of this exhibition. By their own admission, what they chose is not a survey or a showcase of recent Island art. Instead, according to Jon Tupper, Director of the Confederation Centre Gallery, the purpose of this exhibition is to give pleasure to the visitors who come to view it.
Art, like love, is at first sight, and, unlike pleasure, art remains in our minds long after we have left the gallery. On March 9th, the day that Murchie and MacKaskell viewed the total range of works submitted, I too viewed them all and left Confederation Centre with my own impressions. Two weeks later, when the exhibition opened, I could still remember certain paintings very clearly, and I wondered, out of curiosity, if they would show up in the gallery.
The two that I remembered most were there. Michelle Ridgway's Moment's Peace depicts the green world of a garden, thick with dark red poppies and assorted other flowers, where a bluish dragonfly seems almost to be hiding, drawing our interest and empathy. Elaine Harrison's We Are Looking At You displays three cats beside a jug with long top-heavy flowers, all depicted with bold brush strokes and bright colours blue and green and orange. The cats appear to be a little psycho. I was pleased to see these paintings in the exhibition, and I highly recommend them to you.
But two other paintings I remembered are not in the exhibition. Hugh Crosby's Victoria Park Residents, depicting flying crows in such profusion you can almost hear them cawing, and Joan Creamer's Images In Spring, depicting sunlight on a thawing stream with dazzling golden glows and shimmers, are worth looking up, wherever they may be.
The other painting I found interesting in the exhibition is Andrew Henderson's Aladdin & Pandora. This depicts a wooden kitchen chair set in a garden with a metal box and large glass bottle resting on it in the sunlight filtered through green leaves-an image of the ordinary mysteries of life.
You will recall, this exhibition is intended to reflect not only Island talent, but according to the implications of the advertising-Island taste. Apparently the works were chosen to appeal to visitors more than to honour genuine artistic excellence. But artists too have taste-indeed, the best of them make taste-so it is difficult to say where talent ends and tastes begin. Distinctive visions always are more rare than easy images, and yet it seems that the curators might have underestimated Island taste for excellence in art in their attempt to please us.