Pedie Wolfond – Harmonics

 

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Catalogue: Harmonics, Lonsdale Gallery, September 21 – October 20, 2013

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Pedie Wolfond HARMONICS

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Exhibition Pedie Wolfond: Harmonics Dates September 21 – October 20, 2013 Essay by Tom Smart Preface by Leia Gore & Josephine Zocco Photography Michael Klar Printing Detonate Group Copyright © 2013 Lonsdale Gallery ISBN 978-0-9867703-1-9 410 spadina road toronto, on canada m5p 2w2 416.487.8733 lonsdalegallery.com inside cover: detail, Crescendo, 2013, acrylic on raw canvas, 56 x 56 inches

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PREFACE In Harmonics, leading Canadian abstractionist Pedie Wolfond celebrates the influence of music on her signature virtuoso application of colour. Working with acrylic washes on raw canvas, she builds layers of varied saturation until her paintings embody the rhythm and tonality of the music that fills her studio, a symphony of sound reinterpreted into movement and colour. The importance of music to Wolfond’s latest kaleidoscopic works begs the question, “Is this artist a synesthete?” Synesthesia is an interweaving of the senses. It most often causes sounds, letters, and numbers to channel specific colours. Wassily Kandinsky wrote extensively about his experiences as a synesthetic artist. These multi-sensory experiences inspired both his use of colour and his theory of cross-pollination in the creative fields, influencing artists to this day. In the spirit of Kandinsky, pianist and synesthete Josephine Zocco explores the link between music and fine art. For Zocco the colours and brushwork of Wolfond’s latest series evoke the wonderfully flexible Sonata Form, which Zocco explains begins with an Exposition, “where melodic themes and harmonic tonalities are introduced and repeated. In the Development, the themes and tonalities are explored, played with, altered, and interact with each other.” The final movement is called the Recapitulation. Zocco’s synesthesia offers unique insight into the creative risks Wolfond takes in her paintings. She writes: The central themes and tonalities introduced in the Exposition are akin to the sunny explosion of vibrant colours and squares in Wolfond’s work. She then takes the liberties any composer would during the most exciting section—the Development—and runs with her themes, making staccato marks and intertwining lines polyphonically. What makes Harmonics most like the Sonata Form is how this remarkable painter always returns (or recapitulates) by uniting her series with all-encompassing original themes. Both music and great painting manipulate our emotions; we lose ourselves in them, and through these immersive experiences, we recallibrate our attitude to the the world around us. Art historian Tom Smart develops this idea in the essay following, “Pedie Wolfond’s Colour Harmonics”. This book, Harmonics, is published as a companion to the catalogue produced for Wolfond’s museum exhibition Lumen held at the MacDonald Stewart Art Center in 2011. 3

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PEDIE WOLFOND’S COLOUR HARMONICS Pedie Wolfond’s paintings are rich mosaics and enormously capacious vessels for the imagination. The canvases comprising this exhibition make use of just the most elemental of means—pure colours applied to canvases in luminescent, transparent washes. They begin with the simple, declarative proposition expressed as a colour block. Through these canvases, Wolfond displays a mastery of how a chromatic impulse can affect mind and mood. The paintings transcend their materials, and the limitations of their edges. The colours radiate off their surfaces, and the painted elements set up visual rhythms. Together, colour and movement establish unique, complex harmonies that are the consequences of rational decisions and creative expression. Half a century ago, the creation and study of painted colour fields occupied centre stage of the art world. “Colourfield” was both a theory and a way of painting; its adherents and acolytes held to a very narrow definition of what was aesthetically acceptable. The idea, as put forth by the charismatic and forceful critic, Clement Greenberg, was that the singular march of modernist painting from the late nineteenth century through and beyond the Second World War was toward flatness, or what came to be termed as “the integrity of the picture plane.” In other words, beyond imagery, representation, painterly illusion and anything else that conveyed a message, a painting was essentially about colours—hues—on a flat surface. Expression, if it occurred at all, was held to a simple iconography of painterly marks whose only reference points were to themselves. A painting was about itself—the relationships of abstract elements of colour, light, line, space and texture to each other. Wolfond was schooled in and developed this aesthetic position’s formalist canon. She learned it well, its nuances and elasticity, its rigidities, and its miraculous capacity to elevate viewers to entirely different states of consciousness. While many of her colleagues found an expressive language solely by working within its rational framework, Wolfond gave herself over to the miraculousness of colour in and of itself. Although she held to the parameters of her materials, over the course of her career, spanning more than half a century, Wolfond explored the way in which the perception and experience of colour had the capacity to change 5

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one’s mood and behaviour. Colours, for Wolfond, have particular properties and energies that radiate into space creating synesthetic experiences that have behavioural consequences or elicit emotional responses in receptive viewers. These same experiences may even enhance perceptions of reality, as the works elevate the affective power of the spaces they inhabit. Chromophilia is a term describing a deep devotion to colour. It requires its students to grasp the complex lessons and difficult calculus of colour relationships and harmonies. Studying colour is a science and an art. In the same way that music engages many parts of the brain of the listener, viewing large fields of colours painted on flat surfaces is analogous to listening to a concert performance. It occurs over time and activates several senses simultaneously. Comparably, the experience of standing in front of Wolfond’s paintings invites a seamless transition for the patient viewer to be absorbed into the rich webs of inter-relationships that articulate the deep illusory space that lies just on the other side of the canvases’ surfaces. Although, Wolfond’s expressive nomenclature is the rectangular colour wash, and her first impulse is toward self-reference, allusiveness breaks through. In the harmonious interactions of colour, shape, texture, space and interval, meaning of a different nature is constructed that goes well beyond formalism. This dynamic tension between deliberateness and spontaneity is the central theme of this exhibition. Each painting is the product of measured thought, yet within their many formal elements, the paintings trace the course of a thought process that seeks to be liberated from the strictures imposed by a rule-based painting process. In brief, by building up her complex and elegantly composed painting surfaces, Wolfond invites her viewers to transcend the very orderly components of these surfaces and find allusiveness in their abstract forms. Self-reference is the starting point for reading Wolfond’s colourfield iconography. Her compositions are structured by the rectangular figures of pure, transparent colour washes laid down across the formats. They establish the picture plane while also its illusory depth. By superimposing one over the other, Wolfond deepens the visual space behind the plane so that two movements happen at the same time: there is a rhythmic motion of colour forms 6

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across the picture plane that pulls the eye deep into the pictorial space. Across and inward: these dominant directions order the reading of the paintings. Together, positive and negative forms work harmoniously to reinforce not only the coloured elements, but also the intervals between them. Theme and mood are established in the first instance by hue and by the manner in which colour washes define the density of form. In combination, simple devices animate their formats, and in the process work against the materiality from which they are described. They take on an energy that establishes visual movement, cadence and dimensionality on the flat surfaces. The scales of the paintings create imaginary spaces that appear to enfold the viewer, making it all the easier to be drawn into the coloured atmospheres that comprise their artistic spaces. We are captured by their flow, and are easily seduced into participating in a dance with colour and mood. The visual appreciation of the hues sets up a muscular reaction; in the kinetic interplay between art and viewer we are changed, even if for a moment. This is the purpose of Wolfond’s complex, chromatic and harmonic essays. What begins as a very human gesture to make colourful marks, expands over time and in the artistic process into compositions that are at once rational, thoughtful and deliberate, but transcend material and form to be an equally human expression of how colour defines and shapes character and spirit. In the close relationships of analogous and complementary hues, these paintings are object lessons on how colour animates space, replicates emotions, creates experiential zones, and enhances mood. They are charged with energy and life, which give aesthetic and spiritual nourishment. Wolfond is the wisest of painters whose work opens up valuable avenues of inquiry about how the simple act of gazing at a colour and sequences of colours can transform not only the viewer, but also the environment in which the art is beheld. Tom Smart, 2013 7

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Crescendo, 2013, 56 x 56 inches 9

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Counterpoint I, 2013, 98.5 x 98.5 inches on point 11

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Counterpoint II, 2013, 81 x 81 inches on point 13

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