Jane Hamilton-Khaan and Barb Carr are a force to be reckoned with at the Kingston School of Art. Both have been involved in the evolution and upkeep of the school and gallery for many years – Jane as a volunteer and Barb as president of the Board. This month they have again pooled their artistry. Thirty-six of their works hang in the WAG, but because of the current lockdown in Ontario, the pieces are only on view in the virtual gallery on the KSOA site. Before the actual hanging, Barb gave me a sneak preview of the exhibition.
“Jane and I have had a joint show every two or three years, with the past ones focused mostly on printmaking. This year we decided that, while printmaking will make up a lot of the exhibition, there will be other media as well, such as oil painting, acrylic painting, mixed media, and even one encaustic piece. Our aim is to have a fun, vibrant, colourful, interesting and entertaining show for visitors to enjoy. Our colour choices are quite different, with Jane loving reds and other warm bright colours, while I gravitate towards neutrals and blue/greys, although I do throw in a good shot of orange from time to time. I tend to favour landscapes, while Jane favours whimsical abstracts. We've both been working in oils lately, and of course we continue to explore different printmaking techniques.”
Variety indeed. “The Funky Gang,” a mixed media piece, is a wonderful example of Jane’s abstract, whimsical approach. Stylized animals and people float in a yellow space reminiscent of that created by Joan Miró. I’m drawn to the flat patterns of green, red, black and white that define the figures. There’s a cow jumping over the moon, but is that a rooster walking a dog ? A cowboy lifting weights ? And what about those feet drawn in outline ? Works that pose more questions than answers are always intriguing. Contrast this piece with Jane’s photograph of a beautiful, serene landscape in greys and black called “Sea of Japan.” Were it not for the title, I would read the sea as a golden bank of light appearing from behind a dense grey cloud. Although very different, the photograph and the mixed media work both exhibit Jane’s attraction to the graphic potential of an image, of an idea.
“Rainbow Glass,” an encaustic in red, green and blue, belies Barb’s penchant for neutrals. In this piece the large drinking glass, offset from centre and defined by its white outline, reflects the vibrant background while itself being composed of an array of colours. Barb has created the transparent swathes of glass with swipes of her brush. By repeating these swathes in the background, she has unified this radiant work.
Colour again plays a role in Barb’s set of relief prints. A duo entitled “Twillingate” and “Twillingate V.E.” presents the same scene—a series of three wooden buildings sprouting from a sea of vegetation—in black and white and then again in colour: deep red for the structures and green for the grasses. The contrast in colour represents a contrast in atmosphere. Whereas black and white is stark and emphasizes the linear aspect of the architecture, colour adds life. Colour lends character to the buildings and even perhaps suggests the personality of the occupants, while animating the vegetation by implying the season.
Carr + Khaan continues online until April 25.
Ulrike Bender is a former graphic designer, art director and ESL teacher who, in retirement, has ventured into photography. She is currently a volunteer gallery assistant at the WAG and a docent at Agnes.