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Paintings of emotive splendour

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Sunlit sandy cover: Warwick Morning (Photograph by Nick Silk)

ART REVIEW: Bermuda, Yours and Mine by Sheilagh Head at Gallery One Seventeen

Confident colour and luminous light mark the emotive splendour of a Sheilagh Head painting. The evergreen professional artist has been delighting her local and international collectors for several decades with impressionist island landscapes and abstracts.

This show is significant not only because it is the artist’s first solo show in five years, but also because it marks the opening of Gallery One Seventeen.

The commercial gallery on Front Street is an exciting addition to the visual arts scene in Bermuda. Unlike its predecessor galleries, there is plenty of room to enjoy a major show like this where 30 oils are exhibited.

Beyond colour and light though, the major quality of Mrs Head’s work is her affinity for the Bermuda landscape and the symbolism she extracts from it. The artist seeks a unity of sea, sky and land as she describes subtle changes of light in her island motifs.

The shaded foreground of Warwick Morning leads to a brilliantly sunlit sandy cove. Here, cool and warm hues combine dark with light to perfectly heighten the sense of drama. The success of the well-drawn piece is achieved through the superb arrangement of darks and lights: an intelligent order of tone is exploited to maximum effect. She maintains visual interest with each peripatetic turn of her brush.

Hurricane’s Coming is a compelling pre-storm study notable for its keenly observed sky and clouds.

Brilliantly lit from the top right, the portentous light descends through backlit clouds. It is a beautifully rendered painting: you can sense the heavy humidity in the air and the storm ahead.

Mrs Head uses a variation of brush marks and paint application, incorporating thick impasto marks to describe light effects.

She uses the palette knife in a couple of effective pieces including Denbigh, Pomander Road.

Indeed, it is through varied brushwork that her pictures achieve harmony together with her use of broken strokes of colour that reverberate across the canvas.

The panorama Newport to Bermuda captures a festive post-race scene: moored yachts, mast flags flying. End of the Race, with its glowing warm light and saturated colour of violet, turquoise and orange, is an engaging scene

Paintings don’t always succeed however. Bailey’s Bay Bridge has an unaccustomed rigidity perhaps not helped by its subject.

The triadic colour scheme of Evening Light, Hamilton Harbour lacks the balance needed to deliver the harmony the artist seeks.

The joy of Mrs Head’s paintings is their energy and freshness as well as their sense of movement, which makes them so enduring.

The pervading sense of perpetual motion in her pictures is created, in part, by her treatment of contours. Solid forms under the effects of strong light are allowed to dissolve, true to the maxim given to Constable: “Remember light and shadow never stand still.”

Mrs Head captures the fleeting moment with a particularly fine visual sensitivity.

It is a memorable show that conveys a unique perception of the island landscape. A visit is highly recommended.

The show runs until November 30th at 117 Front Street.

End of the Race by Sheilagh Head (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Moment of celebration: Newport to Bermuda by Sheilagh Head captures a festive post-race scene (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Confident strokes: Denbigh, Pomander Road uses the palette knife to great effect (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Delighting collectors: Cottage at Heydon Trust (Photograph by Nick Silk)
Energy and freshness: Watford Bridge (Photograph by Nick Silk)