NIDA-Gary-Spearin_-Orbital-Signal-oil-on-canvas-diptych-70x-140-2015-AND-Gary-Spearin_-Orbital-Rodeo-oil-on-canvas-diptych-70x-140-2015-Photography-by-Toni-HafkenscheidThe body becomes unhinged from its gravitational pull, and even the mind to body connection becomes loosened. At times we feel as if floating in a vast open space, somewhere beyond earth itself.”
(London Yodeller/Nida Home Doherty/May 12 2016)

The 116 kilometer drive over the flat yet calming stretch of highway from London to Sarnia, passing through the long streaming line of light greys and browns of the early spring landscape, only serves to make the experience of viewing Gary Spearin’s exhibition, OO, currently showing at the Judith and Norman Alix Gallery, even more impactful.

When positioned in the middle of the exhibition room, which was restructured for Spearin’s work, we are immersed in the vivid landscapes of six large (7 ft. x 14 ft.) acrylic paintings. Individually and collectively, the paintings immediately create a sense of groundlessness, replaced instead by moments of detached levitation. The body becomes unhinged from its gravitational pull, and even the mind to body connection becomes loosened. At times we feel as if floating in a vast open space, somewhere beyond earth itself.

Drifting in and out of consciousness and feelings of solidity, in each painting we connect with two large orbital spheres, which create their own dynamics against the vast landscape beyond, and in turn, impact our perceptions and relationship to the landscape. A dream-like awareness floods the brain, and we pass into the warped time of other-worldliness, other atmospheres. As we move from painting to painting, diverse emotions sweep over us, spanning feelings from the domestic and comfortable to the apocalyptic and nightmarish. From within such deep and dramatic emotion, a narrative emerges.

We are immediately drawn to the painting entitled Quiet Illusion. As with all the paintings in this exhibition, the two large orbital balls that float between us and the vast landscape are rendered in strong contrasting colours. In this painting, the two circular forms, painted in deep blues and purples, cling to the top of the picture plane. Looped bands woven firmly around the spheres, appearing to hold them together, also create a sense of stability. The pastel colours in the background have a calming effect. The evenly dabbed and fanned-out pattern effect of the brush strokes that cover the spheres and the background further this tranquility. We long to stay here in this vast undisturbed quiet. The patterned edges of all the paintings, but in this picture more than the others, create a carpet-like frame, and the bold spheres appear not unlike a skein of yarn that has quietly fallen upon the living-room carpet.

As we move on to Orbital Signal, something unsettling seems to be happening. The balls have expanded and shifted position, and are now detached from their settling place. A light from some unknown source illuminates them, which, in turn, brightens areas of the background. The bands have become loosened somewhat, and the pastel colours of the atmosphere behind the orbits are of hotter reds and oranges. The swirling effect of the brush strokes raises the pulse. The orbital spheres now appear to be pulling against each other as they separate. We move on to Orbital Rodeo. The background has become tumultuous with aggravated and zigzag brush strokes and murky colours. The bands, painted in unnatural fluorescent green, are resting precariously on the surface of the orbiting forms. The forms themselves are painted in jagged brushstrokes and vivid contrasting colours, further reflecting an atmosphere in extreme upheaval, with threatening masses of movement and areas of ominous darkness. The heart beats faster now and there is a sense of things out of control.

In Shadows Shadow, the bands still hold the spheres together but one of the spheres has become larger than the other, and each of the spheres is deeply marked by a dark crater. The landscape background has become darkness in this painting, and light radiates from the larger sphere. Seemingly powerful and mysterious forces are at work, as the atmosphere is poised to move in an undetermined destructive direction.

An electrified, textured surface of jagged lines dance across the entire surface of the background in Mirror, Mirror. The lines of light stand pronounced against contrasting areas of darkness. A larva-like effect of thick paint streaked with mainly bright oranges and yellows covers the surface of one sphere and a hot red covers the other, diminishing the strength of the now singular band left binding the two spheres. The breath draws deeply and a great sense of despair enters.

Finally, we are pulled towards the atmospheric landscape painting entitled, Breathe Breathe. Our view is as if looking down on a massive landscape from a god-like perspective. In this work the orbits are becoming swallowed up in a thick, swirling, gaseous, red colour that appears to be emanating from a turbulent and blazing landscape background. The bands around the spheres are dissolving into the brilliance of the heat radiating from within the balls themselves. It’s all we can do to catch a breath against the heat of the melting orbits. A sense of panic surfaces, as a hellish, fiery painting starts to engulf us.

The drive home is one of thoughtful meditation, while passing through a landscape of green and brown fields and patches of yellow dandelions, with quiet, elevated appreciation.

Gary Spearin OO Paintings continues to July 10, 2016

Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery
147 Lochiel St., Sarnia, ON

(519) 336-8127

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