I took in the Accidentally on Purpose exhibition by Ross Penhall at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art on the same day that I attended the Victor John Penner exhibition. His paintings were on display in the Mezzanine and Process Galleries. I first checked out the Process gallery which is a sort of backroom alcove off the main gallery and came across walls entirely covered in little 6 by 6 inch framed paintings. On the one wall the paintings were hung in a grid pattern which made them easier to view, but on the larger wall they were hung a little haphazardly and I found this made the viewing a little overwhelming. There were just so many of the little paintings! I didn’t quite know where to look. I was rather intrigued by the smallness of the paintings and thought that the artist had definitely gone to a lot of trouble to make such small landscape paintings.
I then went upstairs to the Mezzanine Gallery where the displayed work was in a larger format. I quite liked Penhall’s paintings. His colour palettes varied from quick bright to fairly muted and I was reminded of some of the painters in the Romantic that I had looked at when studying Johannes Itten’s book on the Elements of Color, namely Casper David Friedrich, John Constable and Philipp Otto Runge and J.M.W Turner as I found that Penhall’s body of work has similar palettes.
I particularly liked his Hello Forest series which is a set of paintings of the log staircases that are often built into the walking trails around Vancouver, some of them going right up the mountain. The green palette is almost monochromatic with just a few accent splashes of colour of yellows or reds in each painting. He uses leading lines on his boardwalks and staircases to lead the viewer up into the painting and deeper into the forest.
Had I not been in such a hurry to grab a seat for Ian Wallace’s artists talk, I would have read the introductory wall text that accompanied the exhibition in the Process Gallery. However, I came across this video provides the back story and which explains how Penhall works with the local kids in helping them understand art and how he actually cut up a painting as a party favour, signed the back and gave the pieces to the kids. One lady framed her tile (they were meant to be coasters) and he thought that it looked pretty good and so he got the idea of doing this in a more purposeful manner. So in actual fact he doesn’t create small little paintings. He creates large canvases and then slices them up. The video has a good clip showing Penhall hanging all the 6 by 6 paintings on the back wall of the gallery.
Penhall, Ross: Accidentally on Purpose [vidcast, online] The Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. 16/03/2015. 3 min. 07 secs. https://vimeo.com/122360608 (accessed 30/03/2015)