For the lover of fine art craft, WhichCraft? is a thrilling exhibit in its diversity of media, scale and expression at Harvest Gallery on Wolfville’s Main Street to Nov. 20.
Autumn Larch, silk, merino and linen, Sanna Rahola.
There are lots of fun connections to be made in an excellently laid-out display of art in stone, fibre, wood, metal, clay and paint by 21 artists. For example a witch’s pot in beautifully turned, purplish red wood by Del DesRoches speaks to Halifax jeweler Peter Lawrence’s witch’s broom earrings.
Gallery owner Lynda MacDonald groups a rugged, monumental Brad Hall sculpture of iron and stone next to Douglas Drudl’s hunk of polished wood, named for its weight. Above them is Sanna Rahola’s rust-coloured, riveted, barnacled Of Sea, Sun & Time I, for a three-part dance in earthiness with ideas about time, mortality and solidity versus fragility. (Popular photographer Ernest Cadegan, exhibiting large animal portraits and landscapes downstairs, speaks in terms of wool fibres to felt “painter” Sanna Rahola.)
There is a preponderance of natural media – stone, metal, twigs – and nature-based imagery from Holly Carr’s gorgeous, high-colour paintings on silk as fairy tale forest imagery to Terry Lee Bourgeois-King’s large, barrel-fired, raku urns. These smoke-stained, white vessels have raised silver streaks like scars.
WhichCraft? is also a tribute to the late stone carver Heather Lawson with her elegant, enchanting carvings like modern-day Stonehenge totems. These also hold ideas about time, endurance and mortality in delicate nature-based imagery and ancient-looking symbols including spirals.
A delicate graphic bird perches lightly on a white limestone post. Two sandstone wall fragments hold line drawings of birds, the land and symbols. A heavier, more rugged piece of stone and metal by Lawson connects to Annapolis Royal blacksmith Brad Hall’s solid, modernist stone and forged steel pieces, though he references Giacometti in tall thin needles of metal and makes circular metal boxes.
Tree with Bird, limestone, Heather Lawson.
Profits from the sale of Lawson’s works go to a bursary awarded to a female student graduating from the Cobequid Educational Centre (CEC), who will be pursuing a non-traditional trade (for a female).
Lawson, who died in 2018, started out as a restoration stonemason and sold her popular outdoor and indoor pieces out of her studio near Bass River. This exhibit includes one standing stone that’s been aged outdoors.
The beauty of WhichCraft? is that it includes a number of works by one artist. Three tall willow figures by Dawn MacNutt stand in the centre of the room inviting everyone to the party. There are a lot of luthier/wood carver Drudl’s sculptures of pieces of wood that speak for themselves as modernist sculpture. (Drudl also exhibits some playful found-object lutes including a Duchamp toilet bowl one.)
This is a good chance to see New Brunswick artist Ralph Simpson’s basketry art from functional baskets to long leaf, sculptural forms. His nature-based work is imaginative, earthy and beautifully constructed and balanced. Employed as a Forest Research Biologist for many years, he studied visual art at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and makes art out of collected plant fibres native to New Brunswick so his vessels are about the natural environment itself as well as form, process and materiality.
Sanna Rahola learned felting from her Finnish nanny; she has taken it to the level of Impressionist landscape painting with subtle variations of colour and a tactility that makes fingers yearn to touch them. (In fact teens at the gallery do; they just can’t help it.)
This exhibit is also a great opportunity to dive into her work in silk, merino and linen with numerous landscapes, panoramic or intimate. Her feathery images of wool and silk tendrils are highly expressive of nature in reality (think lichen) and also elusive and ephemeral.
Two works are more conceptual and contemporary in themes: sculptor Ian Gilson’s small, highly detailed, seated figure, The Rose of Noman’s land, the term First World War soldiers gave to nurses and a tattoo pattern on the figure, and ceramic artist Marla Benton’s multi-piece installation, Depression, on economic hardship, playful in its overwhelming pile of bills, hopeful in a flower sprouting from asphalt
Exhibiting artists include: Merrill Cox (wood carving); Berkeley Brown (jewelry); Robert Danielis (folk artist); David Eeles (wood carving); Ian Gilson; Mary Jane Lundy (ceramic); Mindy Moore (ceramic); Nistal Prem de Boer (bronze sculpture); Al Simm (metal sculpture) and Allyson Simmie (jewelry).
Go to (Life’s Work – Craft Nova Scotia) to see films on both Drudl and Rahola, who live together off-grid in Walton, and on Lawson, as part of Life’s Work: Six Conversations with Makers, 2015, filmed by Ben Proudfoot and Breakwater Studios.
Step downstairs into Ernest Cadegan’s show, Ernest Cadegan: XL, also on view to Nov. 20, for large-scale, up-close images of farm animals as living, breathing, personable beings and wonderful minimal landscapes in winter.
Ernest Cadegan’s photographs range from an intensity of detail in the curly matted wool of sheep to a sparsity of detail in Christopher Pratt-esque winter images. For instance, a snowy field of grapevine posts recedes into invisibility.
The yellow tree in a snowstorm is startling for its golden colour of autumn appearing out of season, much like Maud Lewis painted apple blossoms in snow.
Cadegan’s sheep are robust, matted, farm animals with sharp eyes and great distinctions in their wool. His horses are stalwarts facing into a winter storm.
Head Butt, Ernest Cadegan
Cadegan says he is more interested in graphic design than lighting. He is interested in “moments” when he photographs animals. “I’m interested in what animals do or how they interact with other animals. I watch them and I wait, especially for what I call the moment within the moment.”
“I am rather ‘obsessed’ with taking and making images. It is like a life force for me. I photograph almost every day, most often now with my cellphone. However, due to their scale, the images in “XL” were all taken with a Sony A7R IV. I’ve made a shift recently to producing some larger pieces and this show, “XL” is a manifestation of that shift. It’s interesting how much the perception and presence of an image can change with increased scale.”
Ernest Cadegan worked in the fish industry before returning to an interest in photography in the mid-90s. He spent several years in Halifax involved with Miksang, a Buddhist approach to photography, and produced urban abstracts. In 2002, his family moved to the Annapolis Valley where his photographic interest changed to rural landscape, most often with animals.
Owl’s Nest, painting on silk, Holly Carr
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Great article on what looks to be a great show. Will definitely go see. Wonderful coverage of the artists.
Thanks for the lovely review. I always appreciate your writing style. I found it interesting that you picked up on the Christopher Pratt connection. I consider him broadly to be one of the artists to have influenced my work.