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Waterscapes - Naomi Cairns

A Review of ‘Waterscapes’ at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery

by Kristen Scholfield-Sweet

Art is not simple. It is rife with contradictions and has a mandate to baffle. This seems especially true when the artist has the ability to make the familiar unfamiliar. Naomi Carins is such an artist. Waterscapes, a solo exhibition of large representational paintings of island shorelines, continuing this coming weekend at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery, forces the viewer to reconsider what is realism, and what is abstraction.

The brain looks for what it knows. Upon entering the gallery, one knows the presence of rocks and trees, clouds and water. Just here, all in sparkle and flow, this is true. But is it? Take a few steps closer to the painted surface and one sees that every mark is both a stroke of paint and also a part of the image. Go a few steps closer and the paint seems to consume the image until only the abstract patterns of shape, colour and texture dominate.

These paintings have the ability to be convince the viewer of their validity, along the whole visual arch from 12 feet to 12 inches. Perhaps this is the most remarkable result of Naomi’s work: that we humans—who are fond of thinking in opposites such as black/white, boy/girl, good/bad, realistic/ abstract— are forced to see the continuum. Just when does our eye, and our pattern-seeking brain, begin to wobble as the familiar becomes unfamiliar?

Try this for yourself. Upon entering the exhibition, pause and allow your gaze to rest on one of the paintings. Let yourself feel it’s atmosphere as well as see the waterscape. Be there. Now walk a few slow paces toward the painting. Try and notice the moment when the image and the painted mark are equally balanced in your awareness. Not simple but very special. Then walk up close enough so that the image disappears, and the complexity of the surface overwhelms your ability to “name” what it is. Wonderful. Baffling. Art.

Waterscapes continues Friday, June 30, 6-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday July 1 and 2, 2-6 pm.

Top image credit: Naomi Cairns ‘Waterscapes’ are on display at the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery – All photos by Kristen Schofield-Sweet


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