Sarah Cale: Potpourri / Clint Roenisch Gallery

Even veteran painters will admit that there are better smelling things than paint. Or worse – old paint. In her solo show, Potpourri, however, Sarah Cale embraces ‘mold’ and the scrapes of paint that gets left over on the palette. Paired beautifully with a Sylvia Plath poem, Cale re-imagines the concept of still life and traditional paint application.

Cut Flowers That Weep, 2009, adhered acrylic and oil on linen, 5 x 3 feet

Works in Potpourri reminds one of an obsessive artist. Paintings and collages are overworked, meticulous, layered, and tedious. There is a departure from Cale’s older works, two of which are featured along with her new pieces. Older pieces are more traditional still life paintings, with an excessive attention to detail. In Cut Flowers that Weep, every single detail of the decorative lace and the vase are painstakingly rendered. My Vertigo, Cale’s piece from 2010, is an awe-inspiring collage. Commercial papers are cut into million long shard-like shapes and assembled. Flowers pop off the surface, the long shards creating waves and strokes of vibrant colours that engulf the viewers.

My Vertigo, 2010, commercial packaging on board, 59 x 40 inches (top) and detail (bottom)

Her 2017 pieces, like Amorphous Time 3, have grown into abstraction. Using shapes of vases as the basis, organic forms curve over and into each other on the canvas. Paint is applied more fluidly, and strokes are larger – more confident.

Amorphous Time 3,  2017, adhered acrylic and oil on linen, 22.5 x 17 inches

Cale’s paint application start to get very experimental with Sphinx. Paint is used wet for the organic shapes coming out of the vase, but dry paint flakes are used for the rest of the painting. These flakes are used in many different ways: to create birds, patterns, as well as free-floating shapes in the background. Bits of paint flies in the background, sharply edged just like the collage pieces from My Vertigo. It is as if those collage pieces – each of which used to have its own place – finally broke free and exploded onto the new canvases. It is heavily worked over, with many layers of both wet and dry paint. Nonetheless, there is a sense of liberation, as flowers flow over and paint flies around with its own will.

Sphinx, 2017, adhered acrylic and oil on linen, 40.5 x 26.5 inches

Endora, which is the first painting of the show, is the biggest departure from Cale’s old works. It has minimal colours, black background, and abstraction. Polar opposite from Cut Flowers that Weep on the other side of the wall. Looking at this pairing, visitors are directed through the space with intentionality.

Endora, 2017, adhered acrylic and oil on linen, 30 x 24 inches

From cozy still life to contemporary abstraction: how more abstract and more experimental will Cale’s pieces become in another seven years?

Sunny Kim

Images are courtesy of Clint Roenisch Gallery, photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid

*Exhibition information: January 11 – February, 24, 2018, Clint Roenisch Gallery, 190 St Helens Avenue, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 12 – 6 p.m.

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