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Bermuda Vibrations 2020: an 'endlessly fascinating’ exhibit

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What did we all do during the Covid19 lockdown? That question could be the basis for a fascinating investigation. There is a possibility that some went crazy, while others thrived. For those of us in the arts, the lockdown provided time to think and create. The current Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art exhibition is an example of what is possible under these restricted circumstances.

Bermuda Vibrations 2020 is the creation of Fayelle Wharton Bush; I found the exhibit endlessly fascinating.

The show consists of 38 small, mostly square works that many would classify as abstract and indeed, in the exhibition statement, “abstract” is used to describe the artist’s work. The common understanding of abstraction in art today is that it is non-representational, however it is my understanding that originally it meant more a simplification of something. Whatever the case, the art in this show is the manifestation of experimentation with varying materials and processes.

We humans are seekers of meaning; even in art we seek for meaning. With abstract art many, in puzzlement, ask, “What does it mean?” In the case of this exhibition it is fair to say the end result of these artistic experiments is its primary meaning. The message of the art is the art.

Given that this exhibition is the result of an investigation into the nature of materials and processes and the way they interact, what materials did the artist use? The primary material is encaustic – an ancient and durable paint medium consisting mainly of beeswax – but although wax is the basic substance in these experiments, other ingredients were intermixed with the molten wax. Some of the substances employed were resin, shellac, pigments, possibly glue and maybe even solvents.

My guess is that the artist may have begun experimenting with such a question as, what would happen if I did such and such?

Important in these experiments is the use of heat. It is necessary to heat wax in order to make it fluid enough, to be able to mix it with other substances. Indeed, the word, encaustic implies the use of heat; the end result varied depending on the materials mixed.

Of particular interest is the textures that these processes produced, such as that of crazing and cracking or even cellular forms. Add to that the various coloured pigments and the layering of substrates. Of note is the frequent use of copper as a ground. In that respect, I especially liked how the artist allowed the copper to show through the encaustic as she did in Silver Lining I, II or III. Indeed, I see little point in using copper if it is not in some way made visible, even if it is a substrate.

Encaustic usually has a characteristic surface sheen, but by mixing it with additional stuff the surface changed. In some instances I thought it appeared more like that of enamel, as in baked enamel, not enamel paint.

As a reviewer, I appreciate it when artists title their art. It’s not especially helpful in attempting to recommend seeing any particular piece, when everything is untitled. It is however, not always easy to come up with a suitable title, especially with abstracts. But in this show that task was compounded in that 38 paintings, constructions, you name it, had to be named. I suppose that different artists have different approaches to naming works, but with this exhibition, some of the titles jumped out and grabbed me. Here are a few examples: Weather Nests, Door to the Atlantic; a related title to the latter is Door to the Arctic. Here is another: River of Emotion.

This is a highly engaging exhibition and a beautiful one as well. When we stop to think of it, we all recognise the need for beauty in our lives – especially now with this pandemic. I recommend seeing it sooner rather than later. You might want to treat yourself to its beauty several times.

Bermuda Vibrations 2020 is Fayelle Wharton-Bush’s exhibition at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The show ends on December 14

Encaustic works by Fayelle Wharton Bush (Photograph supplied)
Encaustic works by Fayelle Wharton Bush (Photograph supplied)

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Published December 03, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 01, 2020 at 9:01 pm)

Bermuda Vibrations 2020: an 'endlessly fascinating’ exhibit

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