Over the years Leslie Shaw’s paintings have appeared in nearly every venue where art is typically shown in Thunder Bay. Leslie is particularly thrilled to have her work at Espresso Joya at 8 Cumberland St. in the North Core as her work is attracting a great deal of attention. “My show at Espresso Joya has got me more attention than anything else!” Leslie states with surprise. The show is on till the end of the month and it’s worth making the effort to check it out.
What has people particularly transfixed is the startling way the paintings skirt between full on abstract while simultaneously maintaining an uncanny realism at the same time. As much as the paintings are abstracted from a four by six photograph, as the lines and shapes are all there, people are seeing what they want to see; a landscape, flower, or rock. But at the same time they find the images playing with their minds and their eyes.
It’s a unique combination of techniques that grab most people immediately. Deceiving at first is that the paintings look to be achieved with a paint by numbers process, but the simplicity is hard fought and requires a good deal of time and experience.
Leslie Shaw studied at the University of Saskatchewan in the 1960s and went on to take courses at what was once called the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. She was pregnant while taking courses in her second year and jokes that, in her thirties, she felt like the older student.
Of the experience Leslie states, “I had my hand in everything. With some great teachers it was stretching my knowledge, pushing the edge a bit. It was a good two years and shortly after we moved to Thunder Bay and I studied part time at Lakehead University for eight years when I had children.”
Later yet, when Leslie took courses again at LU in the 90s, one of the class exercises lead to her current style. “One of our exercises was to put two colours for a painting side by same of the same value in order to make the image vibrate.”
This technique involved a lot of forethought and mixing of paint. Care and attention are taken to achieve a result that can’t be ascertained immediately. The result is that Leslie has to paint over sections again and again, adjusting the value to create kind of flatness and jostling of hues and values to meet her goals.
The shapes too are something that requires work. “I really like messing with negative space and positive space, so that you’re not sure what’s in the background and what’s in the foreground. You see a line that represents a crack, but it might not first appear to be a crack, but a shape. The rock cuts are reduced down to the basics.”
For most artists it would be difficult to resist the temptation to give the works depth by brightening and lightening the colours, or adding shadows or placing objects in front of one another to achieve depth, or to create a focal point for the subject matter. The result in Leslie’s approach offers you both a realistic representation of something with a subjective twist, where a visual dance occurs as your eyes try to ascertain what’s happening, trying to balance objects and see order. It’s a fun challenge and makes for beautiful pieces or work that are both traditional and modern at the same time, which is difficult to achieve.