Notice the paintings’ backgrounds. Cathy Ross’s neutral grey, linen-coloured spaces lend her still lives a calm, cool presence. We seem to be looking at the depicted objects as if through windows the sizes and shapes of the picture frames.
Susan Paterson’s paintings achieve a similar effect, except where Ross’ interpretations heighten a sense of objectiveness, Paterson hints at magic and metaphysics – to something beyond what is seen through the imaginary window frames, out beyond the still lives and into the infinite spaces of inky, darkness.
In the picture fields between the filament of glass separating the art from our world, and the backgrounds, both artists have conjured imageries to make them appear fully formed, and of the same dimensions as their real-life models. Their purpose in manufacturing their uncannily true compositions is to startle viewers into pausing long enough to take a second, look. In other words, they ask through their paintings to stand still and study representations of what time and space look like when they are “captured” by art and rendered still.
Both artists convey a feeling of charm in the ways they have organized their compositions and delineated their subject matters – a bugle, a floral arrangement, a vase, letters. Each painting tells a silent narrative whose cadences are traced in the subtle interactions between the pictorial elements.
A dropped petal hints at loss. The casual placement of a nutcracker suggests a momentary absence holding the promise of a prompt return. In the complicated conversation amongst screened patterns on a cotton cloth, a floral motif on a ceramic vase, and a dazzling jumble of flowers, stems and leaves is a visual essay on how creative art seeks to imitate, even if faintly, the glorious complexity of nature’s abundance.
Where does meaning reside in these two different, complementary realist styles? Ross writes that she is “interested in looking at objects closely and in conveying my visual responses to them.” To the extent that her objects are meaningful symbols that speak to parts of her life and interests, Ross is depicting a symbolic autobiography set down as the interactions of all that is seen and sensed in her compositions.All the separate parts of her visual stories engage with each other in manners that are entirely visual, but allusive as well, revealing joyful fragments of the artist whose hand lies behind their incarnations.
While Ross’s work alludes to present circumstances, Paterson’s evoke times past. In the luxurious handling of details and textures, her purpose is to enfold our eyes and imaginations in what came before us to perceive at our pleasure. Her paint-borne illusions ask us to reflect on time as a continual flow, which through her art, she seeks to slow down and freeze.
Patterson and Ross have given us windows onto worlds in which objects are held in timeless suspensions. They appear to be real, true parts of our lived spaces, and yet they are untouchable by hand. They are meant to fool our eyes, yet provoke our imaginations by pointing to believability. These still lives are animated by magic and metaphysics.
Tom Smart, 2019
My work evokes the past, both in technique and in subject.I do highly detailed studies of landscape, florals and everyday objects, capturing the subtleties of the light, colour and textures that are so fascinating but so often overlooked.When I’m painting I love getting lost in the details and the challenge of creating an illusion that explains how I feel about what I see.I’m fascinated by light and how it describes form, changes colours, is reflected back and disappears into the dark depths of a background. I usually work in subdued colours, preferring the subtleties of the subject to stand out. I get great pleasure from slowing down, spending hours intently observing and trying to capture the incredible beauty that surrounds us.
Susan Paterson, 2019
As an artist, I am interested in looking at objects closely and conveying my visual response to them. Something will capture my attention - a certain colour, the unique shape of a plant or the charm of an everyday object. I then collect these things and have them in my studio as possible subjects for my work. Through careful observation, I try to convey the uniqueness and special character of each object. Sometimes elements are arranged in complex compositions, other times; I use a single subject in isolation. My paintings are meant to be intimate. I want the viewer to pause and take in the subtle joy of the ordinary and the ephemeral beauty of the natural world.
Cathy Ross, 2019
Cathy would like to thank the support of the Ontario Arts Council for their support