March 14 to April 15, 1990
Barry Rafuse is a largely self-taught artist who has lived in Prince George for the last twenty years. In addition to art courses through the Emily Carr Outreach Program, Rafuse has pursued artistic practice in his spare time. Although Rafuse painted recreationally for years, in 1982 a watercolour workshop at Emily Carr started him in a new direction. Since 1987, Rafuse’s work has consistently been chosen to appear in the Images and Objects exhibition at the annual BC Festival of the Arts.
Rafuse is not a purist – at least not when it comes to media. His paintings involve a variety of media which include ink, oil pastels, charcoal and water-based paints. Initially, Rafuse begins with mark making, forming space which is further defined by the play of darks and lights, shape and colour. His willingness to give way to surprise and discovery, allows Rafuse to instinctively and spontaneously evolve towards form and image, a process emerging solely from the manipulation of media.
Rafuse’s work is dominated by the motif of mist and moisture, a metaphor for his own personal search for form and structure in his work. But for Rafuse, structure is never concrete or literal. New forms suggestive of nature are created by allowing the imagination free rein to process varying realities, memories, and finally, fantasises. The resultant works are multi-layered. They vibrate with saturated colour and motion, shifting between form and mist, image and abstraction.
This exhibition of paintings by BC artist, Edith McLorn, represents highly personal explorations into the realm of complex social issues. McLorn draws on her first-hand knowledge as a teacher and youth and childcare worker in the BC Interior in order to give visual expression to those social concerns which may often seem complicated and abstract. In Bag Lady, for example, McLorn seeks to isolate a particular experience, distilling the emotional essence of poverty.
McLorn employs the traditional means of oil paint to access and express the contents of her consciousness. Her handling of paint is fluid and immediate. Colour is symbolic rather than descriptive. Mark-making is freed from naturalism. McLorn’s aesthetic vocabulary signals the intuitive response of the “authentic self.”
Expressionism has dominated artistic production throughout most of the 20th century. In recent years, artists have come to doubt the ability of expressionism’s visual language to access the unconscious self. Despite this concern, a return to expressionism in the past decade has become a means by which artists such as McLorn give form to experience, with the self-conscious understanding that this may or may not plumb the depths of the individual. Nevertheless expressionism is an important contribution to the language of our time.
In this sense, expressionism has become of particular significance in the representation of the body. McLorn’s paintings describe the body of post-industrialism. This body is the site of pain, sorrow and violence. The innocent body of childhood, traditionally a place of comfort, becomes a body besieged by sexual abuse in Tiger, Tyger, Vortex signifies the body of drug addiction. From her individual experience in the Cariboo, McLorn gives eloquent voice to those social concerns that now touch every aspect of contemporary existence.
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