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Local colour amplified
Local colour refers to the customs and typical features of a place. In art, the term also means the actual colour of an object as it appears in nature. In her fourth solo show, Beverley Fitzwilliam Harries takes T&T’s local colour—including a line of hungry customers at a doubles stand, the ice cream vendor or palette man, a view of the Wildfowl Trust and a crowd of coconut trees standing in the heat—and amplifies it by deviating from actual hues. Her colour usage is unapologetically loud and energetic.
Fitzwilliam Harries gives routine visuals a Fauvist touch. Her canvases are lit up with intense lime greens, lemon yellows, cerulean and crimson. She does not use black or brown. Instead, cobalt blue and violet become the voice for shadows so that the darker areas in her images sing as much as other parts in a chorus of shapes and pigments.
Much of the artist’s images have been executed en plein air but she goes beyond what she observes at each site to share what she feels—offering an expressive route that takes viewers across the islands of T&T: into Paramin, off to Mayaro, now to King’s Bay then to Parlatuvier.
Each piece is also a journey back and forth among the spaces of foreground, middle ground and background. She pushes and pulls colour, taking the viewer’s eyes to a detail nearby or to one in the distance. She also allows eyes to traverse layers of paint—red vibrating beneath blue, for example, and pink sitting on green.
Her incorporation of tissue paper and coarsely woven canvas that have been crumpled add rich texture and further dynamism to the works, as acrylic paint escapes the cracks in some instances, while in others, paint is trapped in the creases.
The vibrancy of the art is reinforced by her move to works of a larger scale. For the first time, she presents pieces with dimensions that include 36, 39 and 60 inches, sizes that affect the bold impact of her colours.
Fitzwilliam Harries is not, however, the first local artist to frame scapes in brilliant hues. The work of Cynthia McLean and resident Erik Feely come to mind. It would be interesting to see how she might experiment further with the possibilities of colour. In the end, though, her show is a shot of adrenaline that quickens the heartbeat even if that rush is sometimes dampened by some pieces, such as Coconut Fronds 2 and Blanchi View, which keep the local colour at an expected level.
Beverley Fitzwilliam Harries’ exhibition closes today at the Art Society, corner Jamaica Boulevard and St Vincent Avenue, Federation Park. Opening hours: 10 am- 5 pm.
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