Paintings full of unrestrained joy

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Review of Diana Tetlow’s exhibition — “Tinker’s Roses”.

Many will be familiar with Diana Tetlow’s work as a portrait artist but I thought her recent show at the Bermuda Arts Centre at Dockyard would provide a fascinating insight into how she treats subjects other than her “meat and drink” figurative paintings. Tinker’s Roses are a series of intimate oil paintings of Bermuda roses. These aren’t stuffy still lives where cut flowers in a vase can, devoid of their perfume, be a sad imitation of their natural glory.

The paintings are utterly engaging. First and foremost the design and structure are carefully considered and are the key to their success. She chooses to use exclusively square compositions for all her paintings. It could be problematical, given that a square is a perfectly balanced shape and therefore difficult to hold the viewer’s attention. It is wholly dependent on the subject and style to work effectively. Diana Tetlow examines the rose close up and they become as much about abstract form, shape and colour as they do about the rose. There is only ever the merest of hints of a background as she makes the conscious decision to exclude the stem or leaf so as not to intrude upon an abstract interpretation. It is why the square becomes the perfect format for these paintings.

Diana Tetlow explores light, shade and colour in a sensuous and thoughtful way. They are paintings full of unrestrained joy as the artist reveals layers of trapped and reflected sun light of a rose in full bloom. The titles run somewhat less romantically Number One through to Number Nineteen but is all that is needed.

Numbers Four, Sixteen and Nineteen express the same stylistic idea: exploring architectural petal lines in harmonious designs of high that are both intricate and acutely observed. She follows the fractured asymmetry and complex geometric lines of the sun drenched petals as they zigzag through the paintings — cushioning and pushing light towards the fiery furnace of stamens.

Number Five is utterly restful and upon further gaze the complex shapes melt away with each lyrical twist and ark where the soft, neutral edges fade away.

Number Fifteen is an ethereal soft flowing wave of colour where the composition is utilised to full effect: like a tumbling golden wave, painted alternatively with cool and warm shadows of infinite depth. This rounded design is essentially a circle within a square which seems eternal and a metaphor for life. The roses touch the soul of Diana Tetlow and she conveys her feeling with us perfectly.

The couple of pieces which are less successful are because they lack her usual compositional strength and where the strong directional light source isn’t present. It would have added to the dramatic reverie had a couple of the pieces been twice the size.

On a display note — I was dismayed to find that the walls of the gallery at the Bermuda Arts Centre are somewhat worse for wear and in need of redocoration. I prefer that the colour, line and texture be kept to the art. It is a disservice to the quality and dignity of the paintings on display.

Take the summer journey to Dockyard through burning poincianas, hot oleander and rest awhile in this rosy vale. Diana Tetlow’s Tinker’s Roses are full of subtle observation: her paintings reveal the “flesh” of the flower as keenly as the human flesh of her portraits.

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Published Jul 22, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 21, 2014 at 8:59 pm)

Paintings full of unrestrained joy

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