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Mary McLoughlin and the Art of the Flower

by in AGB News
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At first glance, Mary McLoughlin’s supersize flowers at the Art Gallery of Bancroft bring to mind the work of American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe who painted flowers throughout her long career as an artist beginning in the 1920s employing a style that magnified and abstracted them. Hers were not the botanical prints or delicate watercolours meant to capture living structures for academic interest in the previous century. Like all her work, O’Keeffe’s flowers were strong, modern images bursting with life and energy.

 In her multi-year exploration as a painter of portraits of flowers in oil on canvas, McLoughlin does not linger on the lushness and sensuality of the physical structure of her models beyond what is needed to demonstrate her mastery of drawing and line and composition. With laser-like precision, she gets it right and leaves it at that. Like Mary Pratt’s luscious “Red Current Jelly (1972)” currently at the National Gallery of Canada, Mary McLoughlin’s “White Peony (2015)” sings the song of whiteness as if it could not have been anything but white. Nor does she oversell her knowledge and experience as a colourist given free-rein with all the hues and tints in the colour wheel. The four 2012 pieces, previously exhibited at her solo show at the Art Gallery of Peterborough are a riot of the orange and pink and fuscia that made us love JEH MacDonald’s “The Tangled Garden”(1916).

In her recent work, McLoughlin slides even further back in time, to the chiaroscuro or emphasis on strong contrasts between dark and light used by the Italian painter Caravaggio in the seventeenth century. She places her exquisitely drawn and coloured forms against an inky black background for contrast, for depth, for stability and for historic reference. She approaches her work and thinks about her subject with an intellectuality and quiet perfectionism that engages the viewer and allows her to become the flower, the subject of our interest and attention.

 We are never distracted by an insect or made to ponder the motives behind the sensual forms nor question her choice of colours. For it is all about the light. McLoughlin, the photographer, waits until it is absolutely right and then, only then, on those rare spring mornings in Ontario, does she study and linger and question how she can capture the ethereal nature of perfection and savour it for eternity.

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Guest Wednesday, 18 October 2017

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Art Gallery of Bancroft
10 Flint Avenue
P.O. Box 398
Bancroft, Ontario
K0L 1C0

Phone: (613) 332-1542
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