Monday, 20 March 2017

This Place the Way I See It, Ilse Hughes at Red Ochre Gallery

Ilse Hughes with one her paintings.

On Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 the Red Ochre Gallery was a buzz with visitors who had turned out to see Ilse Hughes' latest paintings.  It was a vibrant vernissage.

My first impression was how the colour mauve linked many of the landscape paintings, so I asked Ilse about her apparent love affair with lilac (I am a sucker for alliteration).  She explained that it began in the rocks and that it had grabbed her attention in a certain light.  The particular shade of mauve that Hughes uses can express mystery, moodiness, or serenity and positivity.

In response, Hughes elaborated, "I have been experimenting with strong colour for years now. In my last two exhibitions (2012, 2009) red was a dominant feature. The theme of the earlier exhibition was trees in the winter landscape and I used red to show their vitality and strength. In 2012, the theme was the fishing stores in the outport communities which are predominantly painted in red ochre. Interestingly, even then I often used lilac as a counterbalance in other parts of the paintings.… You are right, purple expresses a moodiness, a cool serenity."

Many of the viewers commented that Hughes' depiction of water reminded them of Monet's paintings of Giverny.  This is high praise for any painter but it is particularly relevant, as Ilse Hughes has spent time painting in France. This is how she responded, "It is true that I spend part of the year in France and no doubt I am influenced by both the French landscape and the art galleries that I visit. France is a warm and soft country. Newfoundland stands out in strong contrast. There is a strength and a severity in our environment which strongly influences my colour choice. There is no room for soft, gentle shades."
Little Harbour East

What I suspect the viewers were responding to was Hughes' skillful way of rendering reflections.  For example, the undulating curves of a mountain range were captured in their liquid, reflected magic with loose but controlled gestures in paint.  It is clear that as much as the artist is attracted to certain scenes, she is in love with paint.  Every stroke matters and there is a characteristic intimacy and freedom to Ilse's compositions.  These are paintings that would be very easy to live with.

Ilse confirmed my observation but lead back to the importance of colour.  She said, "You are right that I am in love with paint. I used to think that it was the brushstroke that mattered most to me but now I realize that it is colour that fascinates me and the way in which it can be used to bring a painting alive."

In addition to the landscapes, there was an earlier floral work and at least one small portrait, recalling for me, Ilse Hughes' earlier portrayals of musicians swept up in the active rhythms of the symphony. Chagall use to listen to music while he painted and his wife also read to him.  I wondered if there is anything in particular that Ilse enjoys while  she paints…it turns out it is CBC radio rather than music.  She calls it her "beloved companion" but when she is concentrating Ilse admits she doesn't hear what is said.

This Place the Way I See It is up until April 4, 2017.
View from Skerwink

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