reviewed by Heather Roy, Guest columnist and Port Hope artist

Barbara Buntin’s show, “off the map”, at the Colborne Art Gallery, is a feast of subtle visual musings which  remain in the mind long after viewing.

We are of the earth, the work clearly states, with its visual parallels of the human body to the natural world.  The lines of aging faces are a mirror of roots, rivers and veins pulsing with the flow and ebb of life itself.  The effect of erosion and time are deeply felt in the printed surfaces and earthy palette of the work.  Yet distant eyes allude to the human experience of reverie that allows us to feel ageless, oblivious to our short stay along the continuum of nature’s course.  Washi paper collage and drawing elements create rich layers and veiling, like the elusiveness of recollection. In the piece “until the equinox”, the face confronting us has deeply incised age lines, and closed eyes. Printed on brown washi, it is overlaid with the same face, torn into vertical strips of translucent washi.  Concentric rings behind the face are ambiguous:  are they the rings of a nascent sun or a waning light?    The piece is a masterful meditation on the experience of natural time cycling continually, yet moving inexorably forward in a finite human life.  

In the tree selections, strong lines signify the strength and durability of nature, solid and seemingly permanent.   Yet here too, we feel the simultaneity of age and youth in the trees’ newer dressings of leaf and branch. Against the backdrop of muted abstract geometric shapes, the tree in “sentinel” is grounded and unassailable.  The human figure in “through a cathedral of trees”, bowed by the weight of inner forces, struggles to move forward.  A chorus of trees is an impervious witness to the ravages of human emotion. “Tributaries” contrasts the stability of firmly rooted trees with the caprice of delicate washi leaves drifting out of the frame.  The effect of time, as the tree sheds its young leaves, invites parallels to the curious effect of the body growing weighty with age, as the mind continues to renew itself. The collage of shorn trees penciled on a washi veil layered over a wintry underlying print, plays with the seasonal renewal of time that seamlessly transforms the natural world, in “symphony of seasons”.

The romantic poet, William Wordsworth, claimed that a great part of the pleasure in art resides in its “means of deriving pleasure from the perception of similitude in dissimilitude”.   Buntin’s visual meditations on humanity through the lens of the natural world, offer deep pleasure and lasting reflection.

reviewed by Heather Roy