oil on canvas
45 ins x 52 ins; 114.3 cms x 132.1 cms
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The borders between interior and exterior lives are dissolved into each other or made ambiguous in Valerie Palmer’s (b.1950) practice. Windows become either portals to other worlds or else are flat planes, jealously concealing themselves from outside viewers. Stoic figures populate the landscape but seem apart from it, and benign expressions to become pensive or restless as they try to situate themselves in overcast skies. Though at first glance Palmer’s scenes may appear apprehensive, they are never bleak or overly dark, and further reflections reveal them to be permeable spaces filled with nuanced, turbulent energy.
This vital unease can be readily seen in Miserina. Three figures are placed in an indistinct twilit landscape. There is no dialogue between them; each seems to be preoccupied with their own thoughts: a plaster mask, hands anxiously knit together, a lamp casting dingy light. The house in the distance seems precipitously perched on an edge of a cliff, before the dark sliding sea and a coldly glowing horizon beyond. Partially obscured by trees, it glows with the same interior light as the lamp, but is strangely only half-illuminated. The main building is black, indistinct, a void, while the smaller structure is thrust forward, detailed with white cladding and brick. A surreal undertow is deepened by slightly-off details -- a too-tall door has no handle; a small lamp is nestled in the gable; a bright brick chimney protrudes and is cut short -- that seem to suggest that this is a house out of place, or that this family (if it is a family) is apart from it. Displaced but palpably present, Valerie Palmer’s paintings are subtly surreal, psychologically-charged fusions of landscape and portraiture.
Nancy Poole’s Studio, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Department: Canadian Fine Art