CACTUS CLUB Inaugural Show

The exhibiting three artists were brought together by a common friend. Their art is connected by their appreciation of nature. The gallery is the backyard studio of Hugh Alcock who generously opened up his space to show his art along with fellow artists. Younger artists are looking for alternative spaces to show art whether it be their homes or backyards or a laneway garage. While these artists don’t necessarily fall into a younger crowd, they have adopted a fresh approach to sharing their art practice. The backyard studio, surrounded by greenery, seems fitting for this particular exhibit. All three artists studied at OCADU at one time or another.

Installation view

Harry Staples acrylic paintings are the most colourful of the three. He describes his work as abstract but there is a synchronicity to his work. His paintings with trees have bright lines of colour as a backdrop to the works, like “Spellbound”. As he describes, his paintings are “derived records of nature “. 

Harry Staple, Spellbound 2024, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 20 inches

Marie de Sousa, who perhaps has a longer exhibition history of the three of them, has painted portraits of plants from her home. The richly coloured portraits are assembled on a painted black wall. In her artist statement, Sousa expresses her belief that plants have an intelligence and capability to communicate with each other. She is not alone; scientific studies have been done to prove this point. So, she has painted these portraits as though they were individuals. Next to her statement is a map that tells the viewer which plant goes with which portrait. The work and the thought behind them is engaging as well as the way she shares her creative procedure.

Marie de Sousa, Work in Progress, plant portraits, 2024, oil on canvas, 7 panels in various sizes

Hugh Alcock describes his approach to nature as poetic and lyrical, and indeed it would appear so. His attention to detail is impressive and his use of materials give the work extra dimensions. His work seems almost tactile and it is difficult to resist the temptation to reach out and touch the canvas, like in “Oracle”. His use of charcoal and pastels produces a wonderful vision. It is interesting that the gallery is also the studio where he creates these works.

Hugh Alcock, Oracle, 2024, charcoal and pastel on board, 56 x 40 inches

The work of all three artists comes together well in this tiny space. They have enough space around them to breath and, while each is different, they share their vast love of nature. Nothing prickly at the Cactus Club, all very lush and pastoral and worth taking a journey off the beaten path.

Installation view with Harry Staple, On Reflection 1 & 2, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 40 inches (left) and Hugh Alcock, Oracle, charcoal & pastel on board, 56 x 40 inches (right)

Text and photo: Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information: Cactus Club Inaugural Show / featuring Harry Staples, Marie de Sousa & Hugh Alcock, June 21 – July 7, 2024, 17 Moir Ave – back studio, Toronto. Gallery hours: Thu – Sun 1 – 5 pm.

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