By George Farrell
Published Feb. 7 2019
It’s the time of year again when the Rails End Gallery holds its annual Members’ Salon wherein members of the gallery who happen to be artists get to display their works created on a theme. This year again the theme is the elements and the name of the exhibition is The Elements II. There are an incredible 109 works by 67 artists on display.
What makes annual members’ shows so exciting to me is that submissions range across the artistic spectrum; pottery painting woodwork jewelry mixed media fibre arts and photography. This year there is also a video installation. As always landscapes dominated the painting category but there are some portraits and abstracts to be found.
There are some very fine paintings to be seen. I could not pick a favourite among them and I need to re-visit the show when the gallery is not as crowded as it was for the opening reception which was held on the afternoon of Saturday Jan. 26. But among the other media forms some pieces stood out to me on initial viewing.
I love the pierced pottery by Rene Woltz which appears to float in air; two quilts by Shelley Houser; one of harbour boats and an abstract meant to represent geese flying in formation. The Gillian Taylor entry titled “Beauty in Small Spaces” features tiny succulent plants incorporated into a piece of cedar driftwood. And then there’s the hilarious fur-rimmed bowl by Susanne James and a copper-coloured mask by Karen Stoskopf Harding.
Rossana Dewey who is a fine landscape artist submitted a colourful self portrait of herself bundled up against the elements and Victoria Gregory’s two oils “Molly” and “Jean” demonstrate a keen eye for composition and colour. But this year the group that I’m most surprised and impressed with are the fibre artists.
Karen Sirianni submitted four incredibly intricate and well-conceived abstracts presented as a square foursome. They are all quite different in terms of pattern and colour but each one features a stitched globe as its centre point while abstractly displaying the ancient elements of earth air fire and water.
Brenda Reise has submitted several felted pieces my favourite being “Green Pastures” which depicts a colourful pastoral scene of sheep in fields. It has a British look about it with hills in the background and a stone fence in the foreground. I guess I was most drawn to this piece because it evokes memories of my childhood parts of which were spent in Wales.
Reise is from Bancroft and is a new artist at the Rails End. She is self-taught and only started using fibre during the last two years. Before that she painted and worked in stained glass. Reise was present at the opening and I sought her out for a few words.
“I used to spin and had Angora goats” she said “and I was inspired by the colours I saw at the Amonte Fibrefest.”
Reise has used a variety of dyed wool from different breeds of sheep in her pieces and as homage to them she “wanted to do something with sheep in it.” Reise said she was “amazed with the array of talent on display and the numbers of people supporting the gallery.”
I also spoke with Rails End curator Laurie Jones about this year’s Members’ Salon.
“When I realized how many pieces were coming in I knew that hanging the 2019 Rails End Members’ Salon would be a challenge. A rough calculation on the amount of wall space available did not reassure me. However the beauty of a salon style show is that you go floor to ceiling so once I found a rhythm the works fell into place. I’d like to thank Jacquie Halupka and Jackie Wells for working with me to ensure each piece found a spot in the giant puzzle that is The Elements II” Jones said.
Each year the public gets to choose their favourite piece.
“To win The People’s Choice Award is a high honour” Jones said “and the work which receives the highest number of votes wins (one vote per visitor). With so many artists participating it’s not hard to see why the opening reception was packed or why so many local residents look forward to this exhibition.”
The Elements II will run until March 16. As part of The Elements II festivities there will be two live performances: Love Songs by Hank O’Reilly and Scott Duggan will take place Friday Feb. 15 with Albert John Saxby opening for the duo. Then on March 2 Biljana Bonchatova will perform A Sound Journey: Medicine for The Waters.
Don’t miss The Elements II there’s something there for everybody and to my mind it’s the most fun exhibition of the year. The Rails End Gallery is located at 23 York Street in Haliburton.