Art speaks to viewers differently

About Art by Janice Guinan

Published on August 12, 2014
A diptych oil painting on canvas by Ed Huner, titled Lilly's Place, has two distinct elements, which lend to creating a mystery about its subjects. SUBMITTED PHOTO

‘A painting is created to initiate response, so let yourself respond’


            The Across the Surface art exhibit will open at the McCarthy Gallery in less than a month. Five of the realist artists, Steve Rhude, Susan Paterson, Shelley Mitchell, Gordon MacDonald and Joy Laking have already been featured in the Colchester Weekly News (Truro Daily News’ sister paper), with Ed Huner's interview this week and only Paul Hannon and Tom Forrestall to go.

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to view images of the artists' paintings and discover a bit of who they are before opening night. It is also wonderful to discover the mysteries behind the various creative processes of these professional artists and broaden the scope of our understanding of representational art. One gets a greater sense of each individual artist and how their uniquely different and distinct styles of realism can be portrayed.

“Painters are people who use incomprehensible words to talk about their work.”(Anonymous)

            An artist skillfully uses shapes of colour, tone and value to capture and transcend reality creating a visual language that communicates to even complete strangers. We all have different life experiences, beliefs and personalities that influence how we react to something and this is true when we engage in art as well. The exact same painting may speak differently to each viewer. Sometimes people will say they don't even know why they love a painting 'it just spoke to them.' A painting is created to initiate response, so let yourself respond.  Art is silent yet visceral, nonverbal yet speaks volumes.

            Many times when people think of realism they picture an accurate portrayal of what is seen in a  landscape en plein air or a floral still life reflecting traditionally-based techniques and media. Realism is not limited to a specific single style or approach as there are photo-realists, perceptual realists, social realists, hyper-realists, surrealists and those who challenge us to continually redefine what representational art is. Realism may encourage the viewer to appreciate the extraordinary in everyday life while conveying a message of social or political protest. Some modes of realism are anchored in everyday reality, but have overtones of fantasy or wonder, so that the gulf between what we see or imagine is bridged. We don't always at first glance understand the true identity of objects or meanings conveyed in a painting just as there are many phenomena and mysteries in life that are not easily understood. Sometimes an artist might hide unexpected or suggestive content in what initially appears to be quite common or ordinary.

            Please look closely at the accompanying image of Ed Huner's painting, Lilly's Place, as it portrays a mysterious juxtaposition of narrative elements. It is a diptych, two works framed as one piece. How does this painting speak to you and what message do you think the artist is trying to convey? Is it simply stated or really more complex? Each painting starts with an idea or inspiration to be shared, although the artist's own intent may or may not come to fruition as the finished work intimately speaks to each individual.

 “After the first brush-stroke, the canvas assumes a life of its own; at this point, you become both governor and spectator to your own event.” (Anonymous)



Janice Guinan is a local artist who passionately believes in the importance of visual art. Her About Art column will appear each week in the Truro Daily News. Guinan also writes a weekly column for the Colchester Weekly News. Both can be viewed online at