A Divine Turquoise Isle, at Masterworks
I attended the opening of this exhibition not knowing what to expect. After all, Rory Jackson is a visiting artist from Vermont in the US invited to cast his eye over our shores by Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
He is largely unknown on the island and I, at least, was certainly unfamiliar with his work.
So, what to expect? Good or bad? Would a walk through the show be conducted with light foot or heavy heart?
Well, what I found were oil paintings of our island’s landscape that are so refreshingly light, bright and right that I am struggling for words to convey the thrill I felt on seeing them.
Jackson is a conveyor of light. But with light there is also dark, or at least shade.
Indeed, in order to depict light effectively, the contrast of shade is a necessity.
But Jackson sees more than this. Within a painted light itself, there are subtle tonal shifts that give the impression of light moving to very bright light, the kind of light that we experience in high summer, a shimmering light.
An example of this observation can be seen in A Shadowed Beach Path.
The entry path into this painting is in filtered sunlight, but following that, one enters the cast shadow of a large tree.
Beyond that, in the middle ground, the sandy path appears brilliantly sunlit.
However, that part of the path is only slightly lighter than that of the entry path. What makes it seem so bright? This is an aspect of Jackson’s magic.
His compositions are deceptively simple and this is another reason for the success of his paintings; neither are they overly detailed.
He has the knack of conveying much with little.
Furthermore, his brushwork is direct and unfussy and his paint application also direct, all qualities that I admire.
These skills look easy and, as is frequently the case, people of great skill often have the ability to make the difficult look easy.
Jackson’s use of colour is clean, not muddy.
His depictions of water, perhaps the most difficult of subjects to get right, are masterful.
He manages to capture both the transparency and transient nature of our ocean and also its depths and colours; the subtle shifts from aqua to aquamarine to turquoise as the depth of the sea and the light that plays on it vary.
This is a small collection of work, just 11 paintings. While all are wonderful, three stand out. A View From Charles’ House depicts the eastern end of Harrington Sound.
I grew up around Harrington Sound and so perhaps the painting appeals to me on a sentimental level, for nostalgic reasons.
Nevertheless, the work has other qualities that draw me to it, particularly the portrayal of water.
It is as if a cloud had cast a shadow over certain portions of the Sound while other areas are in full sunlight, and so sparkle and shimmer.
Jackson captures elusive, ethereal elements, cloud, water, light, shadow, atmosphere, in a wonderful snapshot.
Another painting that appeals is Nineteen Corea Street. It shows another sandy path leading up an incline to a blue cottage.
Again note the interplay of light and shade which, in part, is what makes this painting so successful.
For me, the pick of the bunch, the painting that stands out as Jackson’s masterpiece, is Awaiting Her Magic.
A downward view of a cliffy bay with swirling water, it shows off the artist’s skill in painting water and the interplay of light on rock.
It’s an apt title for a magical painting.
In this review I have written about a few of the paintings I find most appealing, but that is a personal matter.
It’s conceivable that others will be attracted to other works and that is understandable.
We approach art through the lens of our varied experiences and these will affect our response.
This is a must-see show and, since we are not all that far from the festive season, any one of the paintings would make a splendid gift to place under the Christmas tree.
Incidentally, Ferguson’s prices are notably modest.
•Rory Jackson’s A Divine Turquoise Isle runs through Tuesday at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art
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