The colour of Dorothy Caldwell’s Silent Ice | Deep Patience, currently on display at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (and co-presented by the Art Gallery of Peterborough and Cambridge, Ontario's Idea Exchange) is striking. The contrast of warm black soil and yellow lichen creates a visual richness that develops from below and within the surface of the materials used. The depth of her colour is the result of an alchemical reaction of texture, pigment, and light.
Caldwell is drawn to detail. From a distance, the ten-foot high textile compositions are balanced and unified. Through the series, Caldwell explores a recurring line: an arc or mound form. Behind this curved line, the image ground is divided, split vertically in two. The surface is both mirrored and asymmetrical. Up close, the fabric reveals that it has been well cultivated: many layers of material, stitchwork, and printing weave their way through the composition. Many small fragments of image and fabric are sewn into the work; nothing remains untouched. Caldwell’s lines are deliberate and exploratory, precise and organic. She plays with the materiality of her lines, flowing easily from fabric to ink and thread with the fluidity of language.
In the adjoining gallery, Caldwell shares a collection of tactile notebooks and found objects. Tables, drawers, and walls are filled with shells and rocks. She has collected ancient fishhooks, bits of rusted iron bent into curved lines, and flattened steel cans. In this room it is hard to feel anything but the love of surface and form that she so clearly has for these objects. In them, we see the patterns, colours, and inspiration for her compositions, those organic shapes and tones.
Caldwell’s textile works show the artist’s relationship to the land she travels on. The drawn lines and stitched cloth tell the story of that place, of human presence, and the passing of time. As the colour of the fabric seems to come from below the surface, so too the memory of these places seems embedded in the material – somewhere just below the surface.
Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery: http://www.smu.ca/campus-life/art-exhibitions.html
Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice | Deep Patience continues until May 17.
Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News and is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @highamdaniel.
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