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A River Runs Through It: a review of Pat Walsh’s Flow

In Flow, by multi-disciplinary artist Pat Walsh, water is both the subject and the vehicle by which much of the art is made. More than a painting exhibition, Flow is perhaps best understood as an installation: the art’s transformation of a space and our experience of it.

Although a few works are displayed individually, most of Walsh’s paintings are mounted in groups directly on the walls of Huntingdon’s Salle Alfred-Langevin. Unframed and untitled as if to emphasize both their own ephemeral nature and the ephemeral nature of their subject, each painted sheet of paper becomes part of a larger work when viewed from a distance.

Assisted by curator Victoria Leblanc, the former director of the Visual Arts Centre in Montreal, Walsh skillfully orchestrates the flow of Flow. The deep washes of colour of paintings 9 and 10, for example, transition into the bright ripples of 11 through 13 as the eye is moved from the shadows into the light. According to the artist, the grouping of works is not constrained by specific locations or times of the year but is instead organized by the movement of brushwork, colour, and mood.

In addition to her more customary watercolours, in Flow Walsh also works with water-soluble pastel – a drawing medium that becomes watercolour-like when wet. The works appear to be either one or the other but, in both media, frequently retain a linear quality. Her brushwork is often defined and broken, sometimes dragged dry across the paper’s surface. Areas of the white paper are left blank, creating a shimmering effect that mirrors the surface of water.

Absent are vistas and horizon lines. Throughout Flow, Walsh’s perspective invites viewers to look down into – and even below – the water’s reflective surface, providing an intimate and immersive effect. In two corners of the gallery, Walsh has even created painted “environments” by placing paintings on the floor and at the bottom corners of the walls.

 

PHOTO Alyson Champ

 

At the far end of the space, there is a slide show of projected photographs which are not – Walsh is very clear about this – reference material for the paintings (she works almost exclusively on-site), but which are meant to be understood as a continuation of the installation’s theme.

Like the blank spaces of her paper, Walsh also leaves us room for interpretation of her work. Flow can be understood as an exploration of water’s ever-changing nature, and, as the artist herself says, as a metaphor for the fragility of life. Perhaps, even more fundamentally, the installation is a meditation on the elusiveness of the present and the relentlessness of time. In the split second from eye to brush to paper, like the light of distant stars or a river’s ceaseless flowing, whatever is being captured has already passed.

Flow continues in the Salle Culturelle Alfred-Langevin at 10 King Street in Huntingdon until December 10. It can be viewed on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m., and on weekdays by appointment: call 450-264-5411, ext. 238.

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