Vivian Wiley could 'talk' to plants; she could will life into them. And they thrived. Standing at Zina Swanson's Ghost Console, a table in Flemish glass with a page from "The Secret Life of Plants" upon it, we learn this of Vivian. Then it is easy to look up and marvel at a suite of four finely painted Swanson watercolours - leaf tones particularly eye-catching around frames of glasses with perhaps the artist's eyes peering out.
The same tender admiration for things floral is treated sculpturally around the room. Swanson re-focuses our gaze. Painted terracotta eyewear is placed within rectangular p(l)anes of glass that lean against gallery walls. The look is wonderfully light and delicate. The bisque fired eye frames are life size and fine. The glass is body length too, inviting serious reflection. But as plinth or support for the glasses it is deliberately unobtrusive. Painted leaf forms and cords add critical visual weight. The works are named after their carefully painted leaves - simply Oak (For Vivian) or Mandevilla (For Vivian) for example. Their presence is exquisite and considered and enigmatic. And they just could be seriously chic portraits of Vivian.
In the back gallery the palette is softer, the watercolours beaming a sunny yellow and bearing titles like Sun Suit and Sun Eye, Sad Eye. Is Zina Swanson class monitor for global warming and climate change? Might the sculpture Sons sound a note of optimism? It is lyrical yet prickly - a visual and poetic peon to neglect and potentially, to graft. Pay attention people.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.