The two artists exhibiting at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House seemingly have two very different ways of seeing the world. Jenny Singleton has a mostly abstract approach, while Beatrice Hardy is a realist by comparison.
Singleton's acrylic paintings occasionally have quasi-figurative elements, but they remain abstractions. There's no mistaking the brown trunk of an elephant in "After the Parade," but the depiction of its body is so schematic that in a philosophical sense it seems more like an elephant as idea rather than an elephant as image. Also, the mostly pink background is so completely abstracted that the hefty elephant might as well be floating.
Another painting that flirts with figuration is "Looks Like a Garden." Singleton works many variations on shades of green here, but the overall composition remains an abstraction in which fields of color push up against each other.
Although colorful zones are an important part of Singleton's compositional strategy, those zones most often are partly covered by assertively coiling lines and elaborately decorative patterning that esthetically owes a lot to Arabic calligraphy. A painting such as the aptly titled "Arabesque" demonstrates how the artist encourages viewers to track a thick line as it makes its way across a delicately patterned background.
The strategy is taken to an elaborate extreme in "Knot." This painting relies on a rigorously gridded composition in which each rectangular block is filled by a different decorative pattern. At the center of the painting, however, there is a knotted form whose coloration of pink, brown and blue ensures that it is the center of attention despite busy patterning elswhere in the painting.
If paintings such as "Knot" have calligraphic complexity, yet other paintings go for a much simpler effect. In "Skywriting," simple gray ribbons cross a blue sky atop a green landscape. It's an abstraction that conjures up the real world without resorting to standard realism.
Although Beatrice Hardy is more realistic in her approach to art, her watercolors often take advantage of her chosen medium's affinity for softening effects and tonal impressions.
At the realistic end of the spectrum, "Fishing Boat" is a crisply rendered depiction of a docked boat. Yet even here the boat's reflection in still water has an, er, watery quality.
The blurring effects also work to the advantage of the subject matter in "Rain at Monteriggioni." Through the misty atmosphere suffusing a narrow street in an old Italian town, six walking figures are seen from behind. Their vividly pink and purple umbrellas are visually punchy effects in a mostly monochromatic composition.
Many of Hardy's watercolors have floral subject matter. Although the plant stalks and flower petals are clearly defined, she also allows for softening effects. In "Tall Red Tulips," the long stems and slender leaves support the flowers mentioned in this watercolor's title. The background has melting colors that seem nearly as abstract as something you would expect to encounter in one of Singleton's paintings.
What initially might seem like straightforward realistic art quickly reveals itself to be a bit more complex than that. This is really the case in "Possibilities." A woman dressed in a purple dress is defined by that dress to such an extent that a purple haze also covers much of her body. She's also seated in a purple chair, but an empty red chair and an empty blue chair are situated nearby in an abstracted composition that makes it seem like these objects are floating in close proximity. This watercolor also contains depictions of flower petals, as if the artist's most frequently depicted subjects were sharing some kind of dreamy space.
Jenny Singleton and Beatrice Hardy exhibit through June 14 at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village in Columbia. Call 410-730-3987.