Local artist Susan Woolgar journeys into new territory with the expressionistic landscape paintings in her new exhibit Edge of Reflection.
Partway through creating a new series of artworks for the show at Red Deer’s white gallery, Woolgar decided to — quite literally — go back to the drawing board.
“I realized I was doing more of what people expected of me,” she said.
The Red Deer resident had been painting representationally since graduating in visual communications from the Alberta College of Art in 1977. “I wanted to break out of that process,” explained Woolgar, who sought to produce “looser,” more abstracted paintings for her exhibit at the gallery attached to Sunworks on Ross Street.
The problem with high realism is there’s usually no mystery to it, said Woolgar. “Every little (detail) is absolutely given to you, so you can’t speculate … You can’t write your own stories” about an artwork.
She started reinterpreting the same Alberta and B.C. nature scenes she’d been working on, this time using a bolder approach. She “blurred the edges” of some subject matter, edited out details, and focused on unusual angles and close-ups — such as rocks at the edge of a stream.
Woolgar feels her expressionistic renderings of water bodies and woody banks now contain enough visual space to allow viewers to complete the pictures with their own imaginations.
The 27 exhibited works — ranging from small watercolours and mixed-media pieces to large pastel and acrylic creations — fairly glow with heightened colours created by looser brush strokes, often applied in textural layers.
“There’s so much great photography already out there,” she said, that painters don’t need to copy exactly what they see. Woolgar feels liberties can — and should — be taken to make art more subjective and visually stimulating.
As the title Edge of Reflection implies, shorelines appear in most of her artworks.
But the title also alludes to Woolgar’s thought process. “I had to do some reflecting on what I was looking for in my imagery, how I process the images I see, and how I think about things,” she said.
Some of her compositions, such as the horizontal sheets of shale next to the glacial waters of Horseshoe Lake, look almost non-representational when viewed from up close. But step back and a picture emerges.
The Saskatoon native, who’s lived in Red Deer since 1996, often uses the interplay of complementary colours to increase a kinetic energy in her paintings — such as the oranges and teals in Miner’s Creek 3, and the golds and periwinkles in Meandering
“I tried not to fall into a sink-hole of blue,” said Woolgar of the colour often used to depict water.
She sees this exhibit as a tribute to out-of-the-way places: “A tiny creek, flowing though a narrow ravine, the sloughs and slow-moving rivers scattered throughout Central Alberta. Places that have little to offer visually unless you take the time to stop and observe,” said Woolgar, who’s shown her works in Alberta and B.C. and teaches art through the City of Red Deer Cultural Services.
She feels these latest paintings are “less predictable, more challenging, ultimately closer to my true nature.”
Her Edge of Reflection exhibit is on until April 29.