A Close Reading of Erin McSavaney’s Painting Show: MOVING:STILL


Image of Estella by Erin McSavaney, source: 


Equinox Gallery, 525 Great Northern Way
February 15 to March 15, 2014

By Jamie Chen

Equinox Gallery is currently presenting the fourth solo show of Vancouver based artist Erin McSavaney. The show is titled: MOVING: STILL. A painting series focused on the idea of images captured from a moving vehicle, which draws on the experience of travel and the concept of stop motion animation.  

McSavaney’s acrylic paintings are like photos taken by a tourist from a moving vehicle. His paintings always contain visual elements like a window frame or lighting trails to remind the viewer of the experience of seeing from a car’s window. The moving feature captured in the painting creates a moment of stopped time, and the viewer gets a chance to investigate closely this ‘moving stillness’.

Combined with the visual content of the painting, a surreal conversation has been created. In the paintings, McSavaney always illustrates a special area occupied with a volume of greens. Trees or grassland are the main visual focus of the paintings and demonstrate a space of peaceful vacancy, which is in high contrast to the overly crowded streets and busy life of a modern city.

Although the elements in McSavaney’s exhibition will remind viewers of landscape paintings, his work demonstrates a strong abstract impressionist influence. All paintings are broken into simplified colored shapes or dots. Two-dimensional elements like color stripes and paint marks provide a graphic quality, breaking the illusion of three-dimensional representation. The surface of the painting has similarities with printmaking, the brush marks are hardly recognized. But the trees, as central subjects in the paintings, are presented with obsessive details. Paint is applied to the canvas in translucent layers revealing a handmade quality. This feature, in conjunction with the subject of the painting, reflects a sense of the natural and casual.

Some of McSavaney’s paintings have a white uneven margin on the edges that easily blends the work into the white walls of the gallery. The indefinite expansion of the gallery space enlarges the surreal vacancy the painting evokes.

A graduate from the Graphic Design and Illustration Program at Capilano University, McSavaney’s paintings are made with exquisite details, a considered choice of frame-size, and specific color combinations, all of which reflect the method of a graphic designer. The fusion of design and painting is innovative and inspiring. McSavaney’s painting series is a successful experimentation for a new definition of abstract painting.