Painting & Play

A flock of whimsical little paintings hobnob on the walls of The Chocolate Claim – over coffee, so to speak.

Janelle Hardy’s five- by seven-inch works on paper, all in identical white mattes and dark frames, are scattered across the wall like snowflakes.

These simple pieces begin with drawing in ink. Shapes are then filled with watercolour, sometimes overlapping the lines and often mottled.

In the past, Hardy has found that big ideas or inspirations stymied her in the process of bringing them into the world to match the “big idea”.

So for this show, she decided to work without a preconceived idea. She had watercolour paint and paper and pens. She blocked out the space and let herself play, thinking about dividing up the space.

She wasn’t planning to paint the feathers and balls that make up most of the subject matter. You can, however, trace the rules that evolved out of the artist’s “game” as she went along.

For purposes of this game, a feather is a long, thin shape for the feather’s spine, which is contained by a more-jagged shape that, in turn, leaves one end free for the part that attaches to the bird.

In One Feather Study (1), the feather coils like a dragon. Green-filled circles and yellow-filled triangles in the background seem to interpret the stresses in the feather’s pose. I think the strongest of these pieces really push what forms these two simple, interrelated shapes can take.

The paintings give you a clue as to how the works were made: One Feather Study (3), Two Feather Study (1), for example. So you can see how the game goes: let’s make a series of compositions with one feather shape, or two.

There are also studies of three and four balls, hand-drawn irregular circles, which are then divided by lines. Some of these lines render the circles flat, and others serve to create the illusion that they are actually spheres.

Then there are some departures. In Cheep peep, yellow-filled balls take on eyes and beaks to suggest a clutch of chicks. In Gulp, the ball has grown crescent-moon points, poised to seize an ovoid shape.

Both shapes are divided and filled with identical tones of red, aqua and sea green. This one really suggests a story.

Perhaps that story evolved from Four Ball Study (1), in which the balls also open mouths. One blue-and-yellow one, with long pincers, seems about to nibble a truffle-like small dark ball. (Hmm, perhaps the environment in here is getting to me.)

Three Ball Study (8) reminds me of stocking stuffers, the way that toys are decorated. That seems to be the overall feel of the show.

Flutter and Bounce is on display at The Chocolate Claim until the coffee shop closes at 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve.

You can also find Janelle Hardy’s work at the Yukon Artists @ Work Co-operative Gallery out in McCrae.

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