September 10 to October 29, 2022
Opening reception: Saturday, September 10, 2022 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Judith Berry: Escalade

Text by Jennifer Stead

Thirty or so years ago Judith Berry was making bold, colourful abstract paintings of modest proportions. Grounded in the materiality of paint, colour, viscosity, space and gesture, a brush became her means of inquiry and negotiation with painting’s complicated legacy, in an arena as vast as the prairie skies under which Berry first began to paint. The years of studio practice that has brought her to make these paintings and present them to us at Art Mûr has been a long, dedicated and obsessive manifestation of her ongoing negotiation with the complex intersections of art and life: the confluence of the personal, the historical, the cultural and the metaphysical.

Moving on from the influence of American colour field painters, Berry’s imagery integrated figures and landscape elements that assimilated quickly into an art with a distinct vernacular, that both narrates the process of its own creation while inviting us to participate in the artist’s complex inquisition of the human experience.

In Imprint (2022), two androgenous figures exist in a green square. Centred in the composition is a hand that is mysteriously dissociated from either while belonging to them both. The ambiguous gesture is simultaneously despair and comfort, support and obstruction, at its most alarming an aggression and at best a blessing.

Large Ragged Gloves (2022) has a strong gestalt of landscape inherent in its horizontal format. It consists of three panels that are bound by motifs while declaring their autonomy. Two gloves that are also landscapes of forests, fields and voids tenuously manipulate a disintegrating structure that seems destined for destruction. The shallow space of the painting leaves us as a witness to the event, perhaps complicit in its unfolding.

Landscape, fraught with contention since its establishment as an independent subject in the western canon, has nevertheless engaged many artists with its expressive potential.  In this exhibition, Escalade, landscape elements exist in a liminal colour field of grey, green and yellow. Heads and shoulders, faces even, become the landscapes, places where forces act upon them and they in turn have agency and impact. In a complex play of entrance, emergence and egress, bushes, sticks, hands and anonymous human forms perch, hang, grow and fall. They are tightly bound and unravelling, disintegrating and renewing. Spouting fire, they burn. Judith Berry offers us images that describe forms and encounters that turn landscape to nature and describe nature in only too human terms.