Summer Forecast at Dianna Witte

Summer Forecast, a new group show at Dianna Witte Gallery, arose out of curiosities about the subjectivity of visual perception, asking “how can we gain insight into the way others observe our world when we are limited to only a single, primary point of reference?”. One answer, offered by the exhibition’s curator, Tatum Dooley, is by engaging with paintings: products of another’s eyes, mind, and hands. Of course, this is a reflexive and layered issue as one’s perception of a painting can easily be as subjective as the original perceptions from which it was created. Nevertheless, works of art remain some of the best vehicles we have for bridging the gap, discovering new ways of looking, evoking empathy, and if the work is strong enough, changing the way we, ourselves, see things.



Wandering Boy, Burgoyne Bay, Darby Milbrath, 2019 oil on linen, 16" X 20"

The paintings hang cozily together in the front room of the East End Gallery, filling but not crowding, its white walls. They have been chosen intuitively, Dooley tells me, and form a continuum between faithful representationalism and energetic abstraction. Looking around, I notice a strong leaning towards impressionistic pieces with atmospheric depictions of light and shadow, a tendency towards works with expressive brushstrokes, and bright, seductive palettes. As much as I like these paintings, I’m curious about what I see as strong formal similarities between them. If the show is, in part, about the artists’ “completely different interpretations”[1] of their immediate surroundings, it might be interesting to include more works which further diversify the collection—whether that be through the inclusion of novel or unlikely techniques, materials, or stylistic approaches. On the other hand, it could make the collection appear too disparate or random. Balancing an adherence to the exhibition’s theme with a coherent overall look is an ever-present curatorial consideration and in this case, it’s a difficult call.



Daytime Window, Keiran Brennan Hinton, 2019 oil on canvas, 12" X 9"

The roster does, however, include some very talented artists whose work I’m glad to have been introduced or re-introduced to. A still life and a magnetic scene of some boaters along the shore by Darby Milbrath demonstrates her lithe and confident linework, dreamy depiction of space, and her saturated, Gaugin-like palette. There’s an attractive romance evoked by her work, a beautiful, lyrical relationship between artist and the simple things in the world. I also admire Keiran Brennan Hinton’s ability to depict light with colour, his oil paint applied in quick, thick strokes in three studies of his illuminated window. It’s an impressive devotion to something which is always there, just not always valued or observed by non-artists. Following the invitation of the curatorial statement, it is interesting to think about these works from a psychological perspective, representations of the phenomenon of seeing, rather than representations of that which is seen.

In recent philosophy of mind, it has been convincingly (to me, at least) argued[2] that attention is what structures perception, and that whatever catches or holds it is perceived as clearer, brighter, more detailed and distinct than the rest of what falls into the field of our awareness. This attentional structure, in addition to biological anomalies like optical illusion and colour blindness, is what accounts for the separation of our shared reality (the external world), from what we experience as individuals. What we happen to notice, whether it be the presence of a certain feeling or a quality of light, is a vital part of what makes visual subjectivity subjective. As Summer Forecast suggests, a painting can be an opportunity to see what captures the attention of someone else— an account of beholding the way it is experienced by another’s embodied mind.



Nature Talks, Anne Griffiths, 2018 oil on linen, 43" X 51"

[1] Dooley, Tatum. “Summer Forecast.” Summer Forecast, www.diannawitte.com/artist_stmt.php?artist_id=94&RECORD_KEY%28artists%29=artist_id&artist_id(artists)=94.


[2] Watzl, Sebastian. “Phenomenal Structure.” Structuring Mind: the Nature of Attention and How It Shapes Consciousness, by Sebastian Watzl, Oxford University Press, 2017.


Images: https://diannawitte.com/artist_folio.php?artist_id=94&RECORD_KEY%28artists%29=artist_id&artist_id(artists)=94

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