By Lindsey Turnbull
Cayman’s art lovers have been able to appreciate the development of Avril Ward’s work over the years, as she continually experiments with new techniques, themes and mediums to engage, delight and intrigue. Her latest work, a solo show entitled ‘Scratching the Surface’, does not disappoint, an exciting mixed media collection that draws in and challenges the viewer with every piece.
The exhibition launched last week and runs until 3 March, and so there is plenty of time to view Avril’s talent. It’s located at a cool spot called Parcel 110, a community art space which is on the third floor in Cardinal Avenue in George Town, a few doors down from Victoria’s Secret. Parcel 110 is a light and airy, relaxed and laid-back location where artistic minds of all genres can come together and share their poetry, artwork, music and general artistic expression.
“Parcel 110 reached out to me late last year and asked me if I wanted to do a show,” she advised. “My gallery Awardart has been closed since lockdown and I haven’t had a solo show for a long time as, before lockdown, I had been showing other people’s work, so I thought this was a great opportunity to do a solo show.”
Avril said she had been working on this particular theme and so just expanded it for the show. Most pieces are new for the theme, ‘Scratching the Surface’.
The pandemic had given Avril the chance to develop her talents along new lines.
“The last few years I have really been learning to trust myself and my instincts. I started painting in my studio just expressing myself,” she advised.
Avril said the series started when she began working over an old painting that she didn’t like.
“There is something very freeing about working over an old painting. It’s not as intimidating as a new canvas. You just feel: I don’t like this anyway, so if I mess it up it doesn’t matter! I began by applying paint then scraping it off and initially just exploring colour and textures,” she ventured.
Avril said she had always been fascinated by layers, with paint on paint on paint, found especially in old cities in places such as those in South America, for example. Then she slowly started to developing a more personal theme.
“There was a conceptual theme that started to come through: what am I actually exploring here? More than just physically playing with paint; it’s just about scratching the surface of what is happening in the world today. What’s real and what isn’t? What is underneath the layers of deception?” she explained. “I realised then, when I saw the whole body of work, I started to think internally about what lies under the façade that we all have?”
From that, Avril said she began to explore the mystical side of Christianity through her work, with scriptures included in mixed media pieces and thought-provoking words written onto the canvases.
The result is a beautiful collection of abstract work that often includes portraits that Avril has depicted on top of the abstract layering. She uses all kinds of media to build up her work, including acrylic, oil, oil pastel and charcoal, bougainvillea petals and even upcycled contact lens containers, some of which contain or have messages written on them, such as the scriptures. Her trademark sculptures also featured in the exhibition. Moving between different mediums has been an interesting challenge for the artist.
“Charcoal used to be my main medium years ago, so it’s nice to go back to it,” she said.
Colours are contrasted and textures reinforced through the scratching and layering process to give a very pleasing and thought-provoking collection that is bound to be enjoyed by her viewers.
Always a curious and adventurous artist, Avril has also experimented with a technique called encaustic painting, a technique with which she has had previous experience. Encaustic painting is a technique whereby pigments are mixed with hot liquid wax.
“I’m actually studying the technique online at the moment, using hot wax or cold wax,” she advised. “I like the technique of layering the hot wax.”
With art, she confirms, you never stop learning.
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