Friday, June 25, 2010

Barry Penton, 'Hanging Clothes'

You know what I like about this work? Its the contrast within the subject. The setting is a Newfoundland harbour. Barry gives us a sky and water and a distant shore, but all the action of this work takes place in the lower third from the red building down.

I find myself following the opposite shoreline from left to right, and my eye is drawn to the bright red shed, and along to the open door and the ramp, and there is a small visual leap to the dock where we find the lady hanging her laundry. Barry closes the visual pathway in with barrels and a wooden frame.

The contrast lies in the subject itself. Our eye is taken from the fisherman's shed - to his dock. And, our vision is arrested - not by a fisherman forking fish out of a boat, or by a pile of nets, but by a woman working with her laundry on a clothes line.

There is a dark cloud which suggests the potential or rain, and her laundry blows in the wind. Maybe the woman is hurrying to bring her laundry in...or, she may on the other hand be hanging her laundry out and taking her chances.

But the action unfolds on a dock, and not behind or beside a house. And, this intriques me and I find myself asking why. What is Barry telling us?
Is it a social statement? Is the struggle of outport life, blowing in the wind?

Only the artist knows for sure.

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