Wendy Hamlin, English Bold Eagle (1998),
oil on canvas
Canadian artist Wendy Hamlin's paintings typically combine disparate images. In previous shows, for example, she has disarmingly incorporated such subject matter as golden retrievers and candles; madonnas and bulls; narrative interior settings with symbolically juxtaposed themes; rows of running chickens and pigs; rhinos, turkeys and giant camels.
Hamlin's paintings consistently evoke a sense of wonder and delight. Occasionally mysterious, frequently playful and always a surprise, they evidence her delight in raising the stature of the ordinary. Invariably she goes a step further and pushes her themes through unusual formats, which have included diptychs and friezes.
For the past few years Hamlin has resided in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where she is surrounded by wildlife and orchards. The current paintings couple "punned" images of the regional fruits with indigenous birds, and they are rendered in larger-than-life sized scale. Luscious and super-realist in style, her textural details of feathers and claws create a tension that balances well with the reflective surfaces of apples and pears. Like the paintings and sculptures of her colleague Gathie Falk, even when her imagery borders on the ludicrous (as in Hamlin's painting of a hawk with cucumbers), it manages to be both elegant and refined both in composition and presentation.
© Mia Johnson