Burlington - Urban and Rural; Romanticism versus Social Commentary. Bateman makes a strong statement.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Riley

June 22, 2016


The Art Gallery of Burlington is presenting a visual discussion on the duality of the urban and rural aspects of Burlington. Chief Curator Denis Longchamps, along with the Burlington Fine Arts Association, developed the theme to celebrate the BFAA’s fiftieth anniversary.

There was also a Call for Proposals on this theme, broadening it to a multidisciplinary exhibition. Sixty-six art works were selected, with a very wide range of sizes.

This is a more cohesive exhibition than the All Guilds’ group show in 2015, but it still has challenges to overcome. With this curatorial theme, it has improved the unity of presentation. This exhibit presents an uneven quality of artworks.

This theme gave opportunities for the artists to express their opinions about how the urban and rural co-exist in our city. One of the roles of artists is to raise issues within the culture they inhabit. There are few cities that (philosophically and culturally) declare protection of a rural culture, geopolitically combined with an urban culture the way Burlington has – it was actually the province that imposed that requirement on us.. Many artworks spoke of romantic places, with a varying degree of success.

Longchamps hung the Urban Rural exhibit capably, by tying together themes of content, aesthetics and scale.

Batemans Progress

Robert Bateman, Progress, 2015, acrylic

Robert Bateman was invited to exhibit. I found it noteworthy that Bateman and Donna Fratesi’s themes dealt with destruction of Burlington’s historic architecture.

2_ Donna Fratelli, they paved paradise , 2015 acrylic

Donna  Fratesi’s they paved paradise , 2015 acrylic


Both are accomplished technical painters. Bateman was clearer in his thesis than Fratesi’s “They Paved Paradise”. Fratesi seems timid about her message, but evokes a warm memory of the intersection of Pine and Pearl streets. It is a romantic reminiscence of downtown Burlington. Although Bateman relies on text, he creates a clear criticism of Burlington’s treatment of its historic buildings. He focuses on the United Empire Loyalist Fisher house being replaced by a parking lot. Both artists explore their connections to the urban downtown environment, but Bateman’s “Progress” is more directly critical of how we handle it.

3_ Lorraine Roy, The Palace, textile, 2015

Lorraine Roy, “The Balance”, textile, 2015

Lorraine Roy’s “The Balance”  is one of the stronger works in this exhibition. Her textile work not only functions well on a compositional level but demonstrates the “pull and push” between urban and rural ecosystems. The wrapped, uprooted tree balances precariously be-tween the two worlds as it searches for a transplant space. Will it survive? Roy’s imagery is strong with rich tones suggesting a Tim Burton-style nightmare quality. It is intriguingly executed, done with textile rather than paint.

4_ Helen Griffiths, After A Day in (the country), oil, 2015

Helen Griffiths, after a day in (the country), oil, 2015

Similarly, Helen Griffiths’ “After a Day in (the country)” uses her well-developed painterly skills, but also teases the viewer to ponder why she is showing a wild skunk sniffing at a beautiful bundle of roses. The artist statement refers to wild animals invading her neighbourhood. Like Griffiths’ reference to wildlife,

5_ Victoria Pearce, Lost Between acrylic 2016

Victoria Pearce, Lost Between acrylic 2016

Victoria Pearce’s “Lost Between” uses images of Monarch butterflies, and the surrealistic imagery of an urban-rural coyote. The coyote is nestled in grasses as it floats over a grid of urban streets. This may be suggesting that a clash between natural and urban worlds is imminent. Certainly, the coyote making itself comfortable in the urban environment is a new reality for Burlington. All three artists successfully combine content and painterly aspects in their art practice.

6_ Vanessa Cres Lokos, Moving Forward, 2016, mixed media

Vanessa Cres Lokos, Moving Forward, 2016, mixed media

7 Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, Home Grown

Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, “Home Grown”, ceramic.

Vanessa Cres Lokos, “Moving Forward” and Dawn-Hackett-Burns & Michelle Lynn, “Home Grown” were hung one over the other. Cres Lokos’ expresses her viewpoint on rural and urban issues by placing cows marching along the Burlington pier with a forewarning, overcast sky. Hacket-Burns’ and Lynn’s ceramic artwork explores residential homes overwhelming rural buildings and cattle.

The artwork is placed on a low plinth so that the viewer can hover and oversee the battle.

8.1 Rossana Dewey, Jan Kendrik and Grace Afonso

Jan Kendrick, Rossana Dewey, Grace Afonso group image

Jan Kendrick’s, Rossana Dewey’s, and Grace Afonso’s paintings were hung side by side. All three artists are skilled painters. They use a similar colour palette and their paintings are emotive and sensually compatible. Their artist statements refer to issues: mining the escarpment, the Greenbelt Plan, the mid-peninsula highway and the vanishing rural landscape.  Their images speak of a vast rural environment, but do not deal clearly with the issues expressed in their artist statements.

9 Kathy Marlene Bailey, Sanctuary Between, oil, 2016

Kathy Marlene Bailey, Sanctuary Between, oil, 2016

Kathy Marlene Bailey, “Sanctuary Between” uses curving movement in a watery world of reflections that suggests a more rural, natural aspect of the theme. Her artist statement refers to city planners facilitating a residential invasion of natural sanctuaries. There is beauty and mystery in Bailey’s painting. There is a hint of the escarpment and a house, but the focus is on water. The painting’s message is some-what ambiguous, in comparison to her artist statement.

The Lee-Chin Family Gallery is a large space. Area around the art-works, and the scale of the various artworks, present a challenge. Petit artworks in such a large space are difficult to notice, given the works nearby that are ten feet high. Longchamps creates space and separation for the intimate works.

There may be too many works in the exhibition for a viewer to comprehend, beyond surface aesthetics. I think this is a group exhibition in which less would actually be much more. However, there are many artworks not mentioned here that you should view, to decide on your own.

The exhibition runs until September 5, 2016
Lee-Chin Family Gallery at Art Gallery of Burlington
1333 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington.

AGB Hours

Monday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tuesday – Thursday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 12 noon – 5:00 pm

Jim Riley is a Burlington, ON, based arts writer, independent curator and a visual and media artist. His recent art practice involves public art and gallery video installations. Riley has a BA from Brock Uni-versity. He has exhibited his art for thirty years in Canada and the United States. Some of Riley’s video art is represented by V tape Distributions, Toronto. Website: www.jimriley.ca



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4 comments to Burlington – Urban and Rural; Romanticism versus Social Commentary. Bateman makes a strong statement.

  • Thank you for insightful coverage of our BFAA 50th anniversary exhibition.
    Would appreciate some comment on Power of Passion in the RBC Community Gallery which features 18 past and present BFAA artists over the 50 years who have excelled in a variety of ways, namely solo shows in AGB galleries.
    One is Gisele Comtois, another Vallery Mokrytzki.
    Also the Presidents wall in the Fireside Lounge.
    All are part of the 50th celebration.
    The catalogue which is available provides a history of the BFAA. And photos of all artworks( though some in only detail, like mine!)
    Thanks again,

    Lois Crawford

  • Thank you, Jim! I appreciate your very kind words about my work. This piece was an adventure and a pleasure to make, and I’m glad it struck a chord!

  • Donna Fratesi

    Thanks for the nice write up Jim. Bateman is a warrior when it comes to the environment and our disdain for looking after it. Nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Robert Bateman. My painting is more one of sorrow and remembrance at what is happening to our city.

  • Great review, Jim. I love Lorraine Roy’s work.