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Abstract birthday present

A really nice birthday present was a good review in the Halifax newspaper, The Chronicle Herald. Abstract painting has not had strong hold on the current cultural scene here and it’s been quite a while since I had a review here. Abstraction is, however, making inroads. I’ve put together and taught a course in abstract painting a few times in the past year. Sometimes people tell me they take it because they want to “loosen up” and sometimes they have a genuine attraction to the process. Ultimately, I believe, there are no rules in how to paint, abstract or otherwise. It is a felt process.

One thing I’ve heard frequently, and felt, is that it is hard to paint when you have an exhibition up. This time I was in my studio working more or less the next day. But right now, I have that “I want to play” feeling. It’s a funny thing: the discipline that goes into making art. Without it, it doesn’t happen. But sometimes, it’s feels necessary to replenish my batteries in other ways.  I’m sure this won’t last long.  I’m a bit obsessive about my work. And I wouldn’t change that.

To read the review . . .

No Hidden Meaning shows Evelyn at best

By ELISSA BARNARD Arts Reporter Thu. Nov 26 – 4:46 AM

It, No.5, an oil and collage on canvas painting by Leya Evelyn, is in her large exhibit of recent paintings, There is No Hidden Meaning Here, at Secord Gallery, 1603 Quinpool Rd., Halifax.

Leya Evelyn’s new paintings are bold and concise and clear in her latest exhibit, There is No Hidden Meaning Here.

The title is a bit of a misnomer since Evelyn, working in oil and collage, hides pieces of cloth under paint so they look like bandages or so much past history. She reveals just fragments of letters and fabric patterns.

Yet her paintings are so powerful in colour and energy that they are clear in a deeply felt way.

This exhibit, at Secord Gallery through Sunday, reveals Evelyn at the top of her form in a fine though subtle balance in abstract composition and a consistent visual language.

In these paintings she often uses a circle of scrawled line that has the energy of a coil ready to spring. It sits in the wide space of a colour-saturated surface like a tumbleweed in the desert.

Like Nova Scotia abstract expressionist painter Wayne Boucher, she creates a vast space in one rich colour and then defines that space with markers of scrawled lines, stripes, small blocks of colour like paint chips and occasionally masses of miniature balls in one part of the painting.

Tell Me The Reason has a side bar of playful horizontal strips of colour that appear to dive beneath a sandy blank surface. As Befits the Matter, No. 1, has an intoxicating deep green/black surface punched up with red shapes.

While some paintings have subdued overall surfaces in blacks or sands, others go kapow in colour like Do You Have Another Idea, No. 2. This is a painting that dances in deep yellow with a highly kinetic coil of pale pink and purple-blue lines and, in an upper corner, a hint of a leopard animal print.

Overall colour sings out with Evelyn’s sunny yellows and passionate reds, a delicious chalky blue-purple and a buoyant, heart-throbbing magenta.

Evelyn’s paintings are both contemplative and conversational and she gives them leading titles like Transitory Currents of Everyday Life, Measuring the Importance and Anything Else. These works are guaranteed to keep giving back more information the longer you look at them.

Born in Washington, D.C. and educated at both Brown and Yale universities in the United States, Leya Evelyn moved to Nova Scotia in the early 1980s. This exhibit can also be seen on the gallery’s website at


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