Terraform: Kerry McInnis, Nancy Sever Gallery, level 1, 131 City Walk, Civic. Closes December 5.
The Hawaii-born and US- and French-trained artist Kerry McInnis came to Australia in 1974 and more recently has been resident in Bungendore on the outskirts of Canberra.
For about a decade, McInnis was a regular exhibitor at Joy Warren's Solander Gallery but, with Joy's passing, McInnis's presence in the Canberra art scene has waned until this timely revival at the Nancy Sever Gallery in Civic. McInnis is a prolific portrait painter who has been a finalist in many of the portrait competition exhibitions, as well as a landscape painter. In this exhibition, 17 of her landscape paintings, mainly oil paintings supplemented with oil stick, have been put on show.
McInnis is a gutsy romantic painter who adores dramatic lighting, majestic visions and emotive brushwork. However, she is not one of those unbridled romantics who throws themselves physically into their work with the hope that the splashes, dribbles and dabbles will in the end attain some sense of coherency. McInnis creates exceptionally well-crafted paintings - possibly in part stemming from her decades of work as an art conservator - where the intellect prevails over the emotional gusto.
Her landscapes are also very deliberate in their compositional arrangement with no intent to create a photographic likeness and with preparedness to shift around landscape elements to create an aesthetically pleasing scene. The curious title for the exhibition, Terraform, implies the transforming of existing landmasses into something else, in science fiction it was usually transforming barren moons or planets into inhabitable environments.
This is a dramatic and lively exhibition of beautifully crafted paintings.
McInnis writes about her process of work, "I'll shift two mountains closer together if the painting composition warrants: a stream will be diverted so it surrounds a large boulder. Sacrilegious? ... perhaps...in truth, I am not trying to represent a particular place. Just a sense of 'anywhere'".
"Sea stone" 2021 is one of the more successful, majestic paintings at the exhibition. A brilliant ray of sunlight hits an outcrop of three jagged rocks that is surrounded by a swirling mass of seawater. Behind and in some ways cast in darkness are the cliffs of the surrounding seashore that are roughly blocked out and, as if in a photograph, they are shown slightly out of focus.
The success of this painting stems from the dramatic explosion of light in the centre of the composition with its strong and vivid brushwork heightened by the swirling mass of water with its mixture of reflections and deep sonorous pools of colour.
In one of the biggest paintings in the exhibition, "The Gorge Cliff", 2019, that measures 153 by 168 centimetres, it is again a combination of dramatic lighting, strong expressive brushwork and the play between sharply focused areas and those in "soft focus" that gives the work its sense of vitality. There is not only a joy in the celebration of the majesty of nature, but also an expression of pleasure taken in the physicality of the act of painting with its bold slabs of colour and the expressive use of oil stick that create veins of energy to enliven the surface.
McInnis's Terraform is a dramatic and lively exhibition of beautifully crafted paintings. There is a basic honesty and integrity in her art as she enters with a romantic spirit into the moods and forms of nature.
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