NS reviews

Reviews of theatre and art in Nova Scotia and beyond

A riot of realism: three Halifax shows by master Nova Scotian realists

North_of_Woodside 300 dpiAlan Bateman, North of Woodside, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 36.” 

It’s a great time to see high-quality realist art in Halifax right now, all by first-rate, highly experienced Nova Scotia artists.

Alan Bateman and Holly Carr are a dynamic art couple exhibiting together in Light in the Forest at Secord Gallery, 6301 Quinpool Rd. Their works are on view until the gallery’s Christmas show opens Nov. 29.

The two artists —  Bateman a realist, Carr more fanciful in patterned, luminous paintings on silk —  are both inspired by where they live, in an old house with a shared studio on Woodside Road, Canning, on the way to the North Mountain.

Bateman creates beautiful, iconic, rural images of intense feeling with a keen attention to detail, an ease of brushwork and a warmth. His large painting of snow reaching up to a belt of sky with rays of light is mesmerizing in the subtle shifts of  light and colour within the white field of snow.

He also exhibits a painting of Holly as an heroic everywoman in a deep red shawl staring ahead within a landscape towards the future. It’s an appropriate portrait because Carr is highly driven. She is serious about art and life, even as she is joyful and optimistic in her imagery.

Carr exhibits wonderfully vibrant paintings of forest creatures in dramas of dark and light that are metaphors for surviving difficult experiences. Her backgrounds glow and push forward into her foreground dance of colours, line and symmetry.

Forest_Crown_30x26Holly Carr,  Forest Crown, dyes on silk, 30” x 26.”

These paintings are part of Carr’s multimedia production, Light in the Forest, designed to shine a light on mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression, and show a way forward. It premiered Nov. 2 in Halifax, is endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division, and will feature a companion book in the spring.

“It has been a rough year with many wrenching losses,” says Carr. “I don’t claim my show is a cure but it is about looking for the light in the dark, facing and overcoming fears, sharing the light, being each other’s keepers, and the importance of the natural world to our mental wellness.”

The Light in the Forest set is on exhibit Jan. 17 to 27 at the Museum of Natural History; the multimedia production will be remounted in June. The couple holds its annual Christmas open house of smaller works and Carr’s Etsy products with demonstrations at their studio, 299 Woodside Rd., Canning, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 10-5.


Fog Bank Susan Paterson, Fog Bank, oil, 9″ by 9.”

Nova Scotia realists Susan Paterson, Chris Gorey and Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking are friends who have very separate, successful careers but like to paint outdoors, often together.

They celebrate their plein air paintings in their three distinctive styles in oils, acrylics, watercolour and pencil in Outside at the Chase Gallery, Nova Scotia Archives, corner of Robie St. and University Ave., to November 30. All three are at the closing celebration 10 to 2 on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Laking’s children’s picture book Colours in Winter (Pottersfield) is just out and will be at the gallery for sale.

This large show is rich in colour and light in places in Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and Newfoundland. Gorey includes paintings of the Rockies and of gently swaying palm trees in Hawaii.

Paterson’s technically perfect paintings are smooth-surfaced, classical images on gessoed panels in subdued, earthy colours. Many of her small paintings are of streams and waterfalls since she loves contrasting hard, dark rock with the light in flowing water.

Paterson also exhibits exquisite drawings as studies for paintings and a series of small paintings of sunsets from the same vantage point — the window of her attic studio in Dartmouth.

Paterson started painting landscape when Laking invited her out to Long Island, one of the Five Islands, 15 years ago.  She says their styles are entirely different and their palettes share not one colour.

“I’m more of a tonalist compared to her. I try to get the colours that are there. I guess she does too but she sees in brighter colours. I find it fascinating that three artists can look at the same scene and paint it in totally different ways,” says Paterson, who won second place, still life, in this year’s American Art Renewal Center’s international, realist art contest, and is headed to Barcelona for its exhibit.

Joy Laking’s paintings sing in colour and light and line whether she’s painting front porch chairs surrounded by flowers, yellow rockweed at Blue Rocks, laundry hanging above wild roses, the intriguing, hillside Kentville cemetery, Parrsboro views not far from her Bass River home or giant foreground blueberries with a view back through an ochre field to Cape Split. In this show she celebrates rural landscape and rural life with a delightful, heart-warming freshness and vitality.  web19bbalentinecove45.8603-61.9163_edited-1 Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking, Ballantyne Cove, watercolour.

Gorey, whose studio and gallery are in Ingonish, makes painting look easy when obviously it’s not in his deft, immediate watercolours and breezy, colourful oils and acrylics that lean more towards impressionism than do works by Paterson or Laking.

Nova Scotia Church hi rezChristopher Gorey, Nova Scotia Church, oil.

He makes great use of a certain blue, particularly in the darling Nova Scotia Church. Here is his response when asked about this blue: “Yes! The blue. It is a mixture of cobalt and cerulean blue hue (which I believe is a derivative of Pthalo) and a bit of titanium white. Yes. I like this piece also. It is the Anglican church at Shoal Cove near Blandford, the view off of my friend’s deck. Very nice spot.”

LinenAndSilkRichard Thomas Davis, Linen and Silk, oil emulsion on canvas, 58″ by 50.”

Richard Thomas Davis, who lives in La Have and exhibits internationally, has a solo show at Studio 21, 5431 Doyle St., to Dec. 21. It’s almost impossible to see any evidence of brushstrokes in his amazing work.

Davis makes the ordinary extraordinary. If you want to know what toothpaste he uses, you can discover it in his oil painting of his bathroom interior. The porcelain toilet bowl gleams like marble in a soft, pinky morning light.

Two large-scale portraits, both featuring a friend — the dark-haired, expressive Jill —  are highly compelling and intriguing.

A full-length portrait of Jill in a worn Adirondack chair in an almost-enchanted grass and woods scene is stunning in its details, particularly in the pattern of her skirt and the tendrils of her hair. Mysteriously it’s hard to figure out where the painter’s vantage point is: does he have an aerial point of view or a low foreground view?

Linen and Silk is a nonchalantly-named painting for a charged image as a man holds a hand to a woman’s throat, she indicating consent, as he is about to kiss her. He wears a rough linen shirt, she a white silk, pink-sashed robe allowing for an exquisite rending of drapery.

Davis, who was interested in line, light and shadow in terms of the figures, began this painting with a desire to paint a kiss and was inspired by Klimt’s The Kiss as he and Jill tried to duplicate the pose.

“As for expression, the realist in me tends to see things first and foremost simply as they are ….,” he writes in a page-long statement about the painting. “ We were, however, attempting to create an image of a kiss that has some tension in it. There is a bit of push/pull, yes/no between the two figures.”

Davis also exhibits buoys painted in series in poses on a shelf that are wonders of colour and texture. They become figurative. His landscape Going Home is a beautiful, moody experience in light: an orange glowing window in a cozy, white clapboard home, a cold moon light, the suggestion of nearly disappeared blue sky, the vapours of fog.

“I give a tangible, almost tactile look to the objects in my work,” says Davis. “I want my paintings to give the viewer a very real sense of contemplating reality itself. My desire is to capture the essence of things, caught in a moment of time. I am more interested in the stories things tell me than in the stories I might tell.”

Born in Middletown, New York,  Davis was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011 and won the Kingston Portrait Prize in 2013. This month his painting Kindling and Mirrors is displayed at the European Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona. It won honorable mention in the Foundation of Arts and Artists’ 10th International Figurativas 2019 Painting and Sculpture Competition.  He and Paterson will be celebrated as top international realist painters in Barcelona at the same time!

GoingHomeRichard Thomas Davis, Going Home, acrylic on panel, 36″ by 42.”

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