Colour and Clay, Space and Story

From strong swipes of colour to a fairy tale in clay, Arts Underground offered a lot to look at this June.

You only have until June 29 to see Shaping Space by Crag Lake artist Lawrie Crawford and Finding Balance by Tagish artist Sandra Grace Storey.

In Shaping Space Crawford fills the front room with abstract acrylic paintings. She applies the colour with scrapers, allowing accidental skitterings of other colours to peek though.

“Tartan Revisited” fills a three by six foot canvas with red. The red is applied with a flat scraping tool, mostly vertically and horizontally. Irregularities in the scraper edge lets lines show through, creating the suggestion of tartan.

Yellow seems to peek provocatively through the red coating, wanting to come forward, while grey or greenish passages seem happier to recede, suggesting depth beneath the red surface. This painting’s red expanse has a surprisingly restful effect, like Matisse’s “Red Studio,” which also uses gaps in the paint to suggest something behind the red surface.

Finding a story in the paint is easier with a limited palette. “Dream Space” is mostly white, with circles of very thin paint shaped by rotating the scraper. Their thinness suggests the dreams of the title — an embodiment of their fleeting nature, like soap bubbles.

Some paintings use a more varied palette. “Soul of a Complex Person” allows turquoise, royal blue, chartreuse, red, black and white to stagger through the layer scrapings.

White rectangles, made with a short stroke of a wide scraper, suggest the possibility of a grid, a striving to map out the mystery of the complex person in question.

In the Edge Gallery, the back room at Arts Underground, Storey tells us a three dimensional fairy tale called Finding Balance.

Storey tints her clay sculptures with oxides and mason stains. These treatments settle into surfaces and allow the clay to come through. The oxides and stains emphasize surface textures, which Storey often prints with spruce boughs and other plant forms she finds during walks.

The show begins with “First Mother’s Offering.” A seated figure offers two closed bundles, suggesting choices. In the next two pieces, the bundles unwrap, revealing Raven and Rabbit, the story’s two protagonists.

Rabbit and Raven act as a kind of yin and yang. Rabbit is a shy maker and Raven a flyer, thief, and giver of unreliable rides.

Although this is a show of sculpture, only three of the pieces are in the round. The rest are installed on the wall —their textured slab constructions twisting in three dimensions. Sometimes they form a shelf for a figure to sit upon or a window for a figure to peek through.

In “Dialogue” Rabbit and Raven hang with their eyes closed, their foreheads separated by an inch. The space between them becomes charged with a tender presence.

Many of these sculptures are already sold, so this exhibition offers the only chance to see the whole story with all the works together. They will fly and hop off to their purchasers at the end of the month.

So fly, hop, walk or wiggle to Arts Underground in Whitehorse before June 29 to see Finding Balance by Sandra Grace Storey and Shaping Space by Lawrie Crawford. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

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