VISUAL ARTS REVIEW ‌ Susan C. Gregory and Lynne Riding 

Nature Girls: Separate shows take on a similar theme

There are two downtown art shows this month that explore our connection with nature. They're both one woman exhibitions by talented local abstract artists, but their approaches are patently different and their output couldn't be less similar.

click to enlarge Susan Gregory explores a Sense of Place at the Galliard - LESLIE MCKELLAR

Susan C. Gregory's work is at the City Gallery at the Gaillard Auditorium. Some of it borders on impressionism. The painting "Seaweed Circus" shows recognizable clumps of vegetation on a shore, thin waves carrying them onto dry land. "Summertime" has rolling green hills with a ribbon of blue water moving horizontally across part of the canvas. But there are also indistinguishable white blobs that could be buildings, sheep, or flowers.

Gregory's other oils are even harder to define, using subtler colors and subjects. In "quiet lilt," pale colors are allowed to seep through each other. "Sparse Beat" uses grid shapes, like a series of windows. The most striking oil painting is "my friend is in the ground," with a red birdlike shape surrounded by dark energy. The firebrand bird suggests a phoenix — hope rising from the ashes of Gregory's mourning — but the palette is too dark to really convey positivity.

Gregory also uses ink and pastel on paper. Some of these pieces, such as "Twilight at Nik's," are too muddy and indistinct to have any impact. Others are intriguing. The yellow/brown subject of "awake" looks like a fetus surrounded by green swirls that might signify the will of nature's creatures to be born, grow, and thrive. In "What Is Sensual," a cold blue nude has warm, smooth curves. Her skinny legs connote a starving child or an anorexic airhead model, and her head is dissipating into the clouds above her. The artwork is a study in sensuality, innocence, and flummoxing abstraction. Gregory's exhibition, sense of place, runs through Sept. 20.

click to enlarge Lynne Riding's work pays attention to What Happens Between the Obvious at the Corrigan gallery - LESLIE MCKELLAR
  • Leslie McKellar
  • Lynne Riding's work pays attention to What Happens Between the Obvious at the Corrigan gallery

At the Corrigan Gallery, Lynne Riding has been partially inspired by pieces of wire and string that she has found, using them to cultivate a metaphor for the impermanence of reality as we see it. String might not sound very exciting, and if you were walking down Queen Street and glanced in the gallery window you might not make much of Riding's paintings. But step inside and take a closer look, and you'll see that she packs a great tangled ball of emotional energy into her minimalist abstracts.

Looped lengths of string sprout from soothing, luminous surroundings. Some of the strings look like live wires caught in quick-setting plaster, trying to twist their way out. Others are messy, obviously artificial objects breaking up calm natural colors.

But there's always a delicacy to the work that, for Riding, mirrors human frailty. If the soul has a color, then Riding has captured it in the light grey cerebral spinal fluid shades of her backgrounds.

Riding has called her show Paying Attention to What Happens Between the Obvious — An Inquiry Concerning Transparency. It runs until the end of the month.


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