In-between being

Muilwyk’s colourful oil paintings capture complicated relationships with belonging

Sharon Muilwyk’s exhibit en route depicts the artist’s colourful interpretation of landscapes across southern Ontario in her oil painting pieces.
Sharon Muilwyk’s exhibit en route depicts the artist’s colourful interpretation of landscapes across southern Ontario in her oil painting pieces.

Sharon Muilwyk’s en route is a vibrant display of colour—an abstract palate that features both the blurred and the bold. Colours pop off the brick walls of The Artel with a vivid and phosphorescent gleam.

“I describe my art as intuitive and inviting, with uninhibited control. There is a sense of vibrancy in this show, from the energy of the colours,” Muilwyk said.

“I was interested in using arbitrary colour combinations to help abstract the recognizable signs. I have also been inspired by graffiti and like to think that the colours reinforce the opposition of rural to urban.”

A graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s Fine Arts program, Muilwyk is exhibiting solo for the first time in two years with this showcase after recently relocating to Kingston. With the intention of rediscovering her artistic ability and exploring creative potential, Muilwyk is adjusting to her newfound community—a change in locale and imaginative process.

“I think Kingston was the best place for me to venture onto the art scene as it is small, but cultured, and has a very supportive arts community. I don’t feel obligated to assign myself to a category of ‘art star’ or ‘craftsperson’ or ‘commercial artist,’ but am just free to create and express myself as I wish.”

Her journey, both personally and artistically, is a collage of southern Ontario landscapes, blurring the lines between rural and urban. Scattered between Hamilton, Caledonia, London and Kingston, her work is the materialization of a perpetual exploration for the “in-between.” “I am very influenced by De stijl philosphies and so the contrast between two elements has something to do with finding harmony and balance between extremes,” she said.

“It’s important for me because I believe myself to exist in a state of ‘in-between,’ but have tried to put a positive spin on the situation. Instead of feeling ‘I’m not this’ or ‘I’m not that,’ I can say that I am still unsure of who I am, but know that I am in this place on purpose, that the ‘in-between’ is a state of change, that it is neither lost nor found, but here and now.”

To Muilwyk, this is the foundational concept for en route.

With blues, luminous greens, salmon pinks, and scattered purples, her latest exhibit an optical delight—a visceral and indefinable display of colour.

“I prefer ‘the sunrise’”—a landscape portrait that is, in the words of Muilwyk, focused on the “area formerly known as LVEC”—is a separate reflection of reality, lost in the abstract as human construction interferes with the serenity of nature. Muilwyk wraps the work with depth-defining borders, yet the piece maintains a hidden sentiment of the organic. Traced through the middle of the painting is a blue pattern resembling a cluttered audio frequency—the unification of sound in this contrast of the natural and artificial.

Similarly, “401 West,” a reflection on the passing, finite landscapes of train and bus travel, is laced with contrast. Strong, scarce bolds dominate the foreground while the remainder is lost in a flurry of lighter strokes of the same bold colours in a chaotic interchange of simple lines and evasive landscapes.

“I love to see how small towns or villages pop up in small clusters, and knowing that what links us are these heavy power lines, being carried by armies of soldier-like hydro pillions,” Muilwyk said.

In contrast, “Steeltown (east end),” an imagined view of Hamilton’s east end from above, is, despite its surreal colouring, an honest and nostalgic depiction of the urban landscape. Bright pinks, greens and blues are blotched onto the dark purple background to represent the dispersed Steeltown buildings, and pen-tip-sized dots that represent city lights are splattered across the large canvas.

Forming close relationships with her landscapes, Muilwyk is putting her love/hate relationships with landscape on display with this exhibit, wrestling with the locations that have defined her in an appropriate showcase of the energetic imagination.

“I think art is effective if it invokes an emotional response, whether strong or subtle. Everyone reacts to colours differently, so some may feel warm and loved, others may feel angry, or energized. They make me feel calm, but they are also familiar to me, like close friends.”

Accepting existence in the “in-between,” interacting with the geography of inspiration and emitting a spirited display of loud colour, Muilwyk has created a new exhibition of self-definition with en route—one that will remain, in her mind, concerned with capturing the indescribable.

Sharon Muilwky’s en route runs at The Artel, 205 Sydenham St., until December 2. The Artel is open Thusrday and Friday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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