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Norma Jean MacLean reflects on collecting in her solo exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

Artist Norma Jean MacLean stands next to Grafting No. 4. The oil on canvas painting is one of the pieces she created for “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected”, an exhibition running until April 28 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN
Artist Norma Jean MacLean stands next to Grafting No. 4. The oil on canvas painting is one of the pieces she created for “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected”, an exhibition running until April 28 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown. SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN - The Guardian

Artist Norma Jean MacLean is on a creative adventure.

Her new exhibition, “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected”, is a selection of recent work where she explores the beauty of improvised layering, piling and accumulation.

“It’s been a different journey for me over the past two years as I’ve made them,” says the Bloomfield, P.E.I. native, as she stood at the entrance of the Sobeys Gallery at the Confederation Centre where her work is on display until April 28. 

Consisting of large-scale paintings, drawings and sculpture, as well as a photo, the pieces were created over the past two years during residencies at the Banff Centre and in Lunenburg, N.S.

And they show a distinct style.

“Rebound Court” is one of the pieces in “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected”, a new exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. SUBMITTED PHOTO
“Rebound Court” is one of the pieces in “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected”, a new exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Take the basketball court series, for example.  The courts and nets are easy for the viewer to understand because the forms are familiar. But MacLean has placed the basketball nets back to back, as if they were in conflict to each other.

“I like that even though they are inanimate objects they are interacting. I also like the multiple shadows in each painting,” says the NSCAD graduate, who is part of the gallery’s Emerging Artist Program that is supported by the RBC Foundation.

Another painting, L.M., resembles a handful of Pick Up Sticks tossed on a dark floor.

“I love when people bring their own experience to it,” MacLean says, with a laugh, adding that the inspiration came from the forms she collected as she drove along the highway, such as the wires coming off utility poles.

Her bright palette — orange and yellow ­— came from the wire guards.

“I feel it’s just a different way to make visual experiences.”

“Of the Arrangement” is the title of this painting by P.E.I. artist Norma Jean MacLean. SUBMITTED PHOTO
“Of the Arrangement” is the title of this painting by P.E.I. artist Norma Jean MacLean. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Next is the flora collection. The oil on canvas paintings are inspired by photographs that were either sent to her or images that she found.

In her creative process, MacLean used a mirror to reflect these images onto the canvas.

“It was fun making the two sides look the same. Symmetry makes people compare the parts of the painting. It also creates expectation. So I had fun with that.”

MacLean used the same technique in painting Ides No. 2, which resembles two snow banks.

“I hope that the viewer does a comparison of what they’re looking at. And, they bring their own expectation to the experience.”

Another way to experience the show, which is curated by Pan Wendt, is to think of it as a seasonal tour.

Enter the exhibition, from the left. Follow the pastel-coloured images that include lawn chairs and basketball courts to the warmer colours of summer, depicted by beach images and lush floral arrangements, to cooler images of winter such as the work, “Side by Side”, which looks like two snow banks.

“I hope that people will focus the paintings and build stories around them.”

At a glance

-What: “Accumulated, Positioned, Reflected” by artist Norma Jean MacLean.

- When and where: Until April 28 at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

- Artist’s statement: “I often look at the painting process as a process of data collection, a visual conglomeration, a means of digesting experience and the passage of less tangible units such as time and distance,” says MacLean.

sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/SallyForth57

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