Art around the Harbour
This solo exhibition includes eight pieces which, together, portray a kind of multi-dimensional portrait of a harbour. It’s shown as a spot to congregate, a site for commerce, and a source of restoration.
Artist Kathy Marlene Bailey “is inspired by the old masters approach to oil painting,” the invitation notes. ‘Old Masters’ is a broad term, to say the least, not deliberately vague but encompassing many techniques that developed with changing technology. But here we can see it indicates a painterly realism with classical configuration and balance to the subject, whether a seascape or a person.
In “Old Perlican Harbour Series: Nightfall Over the Harbour” (glazed oil on canvas, 26” x 36”-most of the works are around this size), for example, the broad serenity of the sky is reflected in the calm ocean, with ribbons of wharf light unspooling at the bottom. It’s the magic hour, lots of soft but tangible fading daylight with small punches of electric illumination. It’s a familiar scene, but even if you saw it every day on your way home you would still stop and look. In this frame the brushstrokes add an alluring interpretative sheen. It is always nice to see well-painted water.
“I Look to the West” (oil on canvas) floats on tranquil ripples. Small open boats draft at anchor on the right hand side. The yellows and pinks and blues in the water ebb and interflow with a delicacy you can almost dip your hands into.
The palette is always natural, and the forms representational. Boat rigging and masts, towering industrial lights, a nub of electric motor-all quite clear. The objects are functional, not embellished. What lends it-no, imbues it with-such beauty is the setting and the rendering of it. A harbour means open water heading out under open sky. Who doesn’t like to watch the changing sky? Who isn’t curious to see whose boat is coming in?
The seasons (and perspective) change with “Tucked at Daniel’s Cove” (oil on canvas). It is winter, and the water is frozen, or at least stogged with snow, and the dominant feature is a house. There are no lights on inside; its A-frame and veranda design suggesting a summer place that is empty now.
Because there is a very deliberate social element to this exhibition. Bailey sees the harbour as a hub for work and socializing. Like in “Old Perlican Harbour Series: The Food Fishery” (glazed oil on canvas), where four figures gather to examine their catch. Or “Old Perlican Harbour Series: Harbour Chat” (glazed oil on canvas), which doesn’t show the harbour at all, but an older man, sitting in the front seat of his vehicle, window rolled down, mid-conversation.
But the water is often the reflective focus. As in “Three Small Boats” (oil on canvas), which sets the boats above their mirror images. These are utilitarian craft, purposebuilt, white trimmed with blue, black numbers painted on their bows. But now their pleasing scallop shapes are twinned by the calm silver and blue sea.
“Harbour” continues at the Christina Parker Gallery until Sep. 4.
“Old Perlican Harbour Series, Wharf,” by Kathy Marlene Bailey.
“Old Perlican Harbour Series, The Food Fishery,” by Kathy Marlene Bailey.