Light and more light. A light touch. Laura Madera makes watercolour look juicy and roomy. She captures the dazzle, summer light through the leaves, an imprint or trace on paper or fabric, translucent icebergs, looking up at the sky when you’re underwater, a winter moon with snow crystals frozen in the air.
Her first exhibition in Peterborough, Afterglow, is at the always outstanding Evans Contemporary. The installation is simple and fresh. Despite a bitter snowy night, the opening was packed.
The large diptych entitled Range, exhales guileless pinks and blues, a contrast to the rugged snow-capped panorama it describes. A smaller watercolour on canvas, Matter, examines organic texture while hinting at a mystical geometry. Like mountains in classical Chinese painting or the clouds of Tibetan thangka, nature is the springboard that invokes an inner terrain.
I see shades of Arthur Dove and Lourdes Sanchez in work that is abstract and playful as Klee. Iceberg, Moon and Dip and through delighted even the kids at the opening. And the Life Saver colours of a small untitled watercolour on plaster shine with an intimate lopsided glee.
Madera is no stranger to landscape, having lived in the wilds of B.C. for a few years. She and her partner drew a circle and after a little deliberation, recently decided on Peterborough with its proximity to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, as well as easy access to deep forest and strong community, to raise their young family.
Named as one of Canada’s most promising emerging painters by the prestigious Magenta Foundation, Madera has a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from the University of Guelph, as well as a Banff residency and exhibitions across Canada under her belt. She tells me that she “went through a poetry bender in my 20’s,” with some success, but put it aside when her painting suffered. And she has also worked with installation, such Private Moments in Public Places, for Nuit Blanche, 2007, in which an intimate video was screened in a car parked in a public place. What drives her practice she tells me is “being in conversation with ideas.”
Madera says it best: “Watercolour is rigorous. It’s demanding, unruly, uncompromising, staining, pooling, easy-to-get-out-of-hand messy. Make a mark on the white page and it’s there, no going back. It demands a level of being present, of being in the moment. Shut out the world and just be. Here. Now.”
Laura Madera: Afterglow
November 20 – December 21, 2014
Photo / video credits: Evans Contemporary