Muse figures large in Geospaces

Susan Delaney’s bold, abstract paintings emerge from a tug o’war between the calculated and the spontaneous.

The artist whose Geospaces show is at the Kiwanis Gallery in the Red Deer Public Library, explained that once she starts painting, she lets her muse take over. “I’m not fully in charge anymore.”

While Delaney can control the colours and shapes she paints, there’s plenty of unpredictability in her process: the runny effect of added water, the chunky textures from rolling thick layers of paint. There’s the lifting effects of alcohol. When sprayed on the canvas, it reveals spots of underpainting.

The Red Deer artist has no problem cutting loose, but feels “it’s important to know when to stop.” Since overworked paintings lose their appeal for the artist, who trained in the Red Deer College visual arts program, Delaney tries to lifts her brush or roller whenever she’s satisfied with a composition.

“I like the freshness” of a painting, she said. “I like it when you can see a record of the (artist’s) emotion … I guess that makes me an expressionist.”

Delaney hopes viewers are compelled to meditate on her intuitive, non-representational works in the gallery operated by the Red Deer Arts Council.

“I see them almost like a delicious meal, so pleasurable to the senses. I like to look at the different textures and colours…”

Splashes of red and orange are countered by daubs of deep blackish grey and brown in her works Geospace 30 and Geospace 31, while bits of gold underpainting peek out beneath the ochre and grey in Geospace 3.

Geospace 20 features a thickly rolled dark tread mark amid splashes of purple and yellow.

The only pieces inspired by real landscapes are her Rocky Mountain Reveries. But even these compositions flow into loose bands of colour and shape.

“My paintings are not complicated or symbolic. You’re not supposed to get some meaning out of them,” said Delaney. “The only meaning is the physical representation.”

By trusting her intuition and her medium, Delaney feels she creates “fun” art with bubbled, textured and splattered surfaces. Yet she feels her works are complex enough to draw repeat viewings. “I always hope they are something I could live with and stay interested in.”

The artist who has worked as an administrative and freelance writer, started out with a degree in art history from Western University in her native London, Ont. She comes from an arty clan — her mom worked at a gallery and there were other artists in the family — but Delaney didn’t complete her visual arts training until after raising her children.

While she has exhibited her works in Red Deer, Edmonton and Black Diamond, she knows a lot of people don’t understand abstract art.

“There’ve been times when people have said, ‘My five-year-old can do that.’ And I say, ‘Well get (her) out there and get her going then!’ ”

While she’s painted more recognizable subject matter in the past, Delaney is enjoying the freedom of abstraction.

“There are probably some limits and boundaries I put on myself when I set out to do this, but I can’t think, off-hand, what they are.”

Geospaces continues in the Kiwanis Gallery until Oct. 16.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com