Full of Beans café continues its excellent support of local artists with its recent show a vivid and colourful depiction of everyday quiet moments in Cayman. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull chats with artist Sue Howe to appreciate her journey to this, her first solo show.
It seems art galleries are awash these days with pretty seascapes and vignettes of old Caymanian homes. As delightful as they are, to view an exhibition of art that celebrates the not-so-glamorous yet real and relevant scenes from everyday life is a rare treat.
Artist Sue Howe says she is drawn to capturing simple moments from everyday life, recording them for posterity in her glorious realist style that sends the viewer to that very moment and place in a flash.
‘Island Light’ is Sue’s first solo show although she has exhibited in group exhibitions for a number of years at events such as Art@Governor’s, The Ritz-Carlton, CayFest and the Visual Arts Society and a special Meals on Wheels charity event.
A Canadian native, Sue has lived in the Cayman islands for 18 years and says although she has always enjoyed the arts (her background is theatre – production and acting), it is only in recent years that she has really come into her own when it comes to painting.
“I took art classes a number of years ago and one in particular flipped my head inside out!” she says.
She is referring to workshops given by visiting lecturer Fernando Frietas who teaches at The Toronto Academy of Realist Art, whose realism classes in Cayman have spawned a whole host of passionate realist artists here.
“From that moment on I fell in love with realism,” Sue confirms.
Having generally focused on abstract art up until that point, Sue says Fernando’s teaching opened up a whole new world of art.She explains: “I always loved to paint but I needed a language from which to base my work. The first course I took with Fernando was a drawing class. The first time I completed a drawing using Fernando’s techniques relating to light, shading, proportion, shape etc, I was completely astonished and excited to find that you could take a two dimensional piece of paper and create a three dimensional image!”
Sue followed on with a painting course and says initially she was “petrified” of painting in the genre of realism, yet she took to the style with gusto.
“It was a pivotal moment for me,” she states. “Kind of like a birth in relation to my artistic skills. From that moment on I’ve worked hard to develop my own style.”
Thus Sue embarked on her new artistic journey painting scenes from Cayman life, portraits, anything n fact that caught her eye to make a good composition.
“I began working in acrylics but have since moved on to oils, a fantastic medium in which to work because they can be moved around on the canvas as they dry so slowly. I find also that oil holds light better and has an amazing richness and depth to it,” she says.
Her new Island Light exhibition at Full of Beans is a collection of images that she says are off the beaten track. In particular, Sue has worked hard to incorporate all the variances of fantastic natural light that can be enjoyed here in Cayman.
“I wanted to catch quiet places that you might drive by and not really notice,” she explains, “and at different times of day, which makes such a difference to the light.”
Howell’s Shoe mending Shop is a perfect example, nestled in the heart of George Town and probably overlooked by most (unless you happen to have a shoe that needs mending of course!) In this painting Sue expertly weaves the vivid light of the George Town day into her realist view of the shop with panache.
Seaside Morning at East End is another celebration of light and colour, a simple scene of plastic chairs and tables that leave the viewer guessing the precise location of this recognisable scene.
Almost all of the paintings in this collection are of scenes rather than people, a deliberate move by Sue. “I wanted to create the feeling of anticipation; of waiting for something to happen, or someone to appear.”
Indeed, the Seaside Morning piece suggests diners are about to enter the scene for a sunny breakfast or brunch, while Savannah Sanctuary is a depiction of the horse stable in Savannah with closed doors to the stables – you can almost hear the clip clop of hooves as the horses return home.
The Little Pink House is the fruit of a sudden drive-by spot by Sue, a glorious section of an old Caymanian house with two neat shoes placed outside the front door, leaving the viewer wondering when the owner will return to reclaim them.
Sue says she is brimming with ideas for future solo exhibitions.
“I’d love to do a show opposite to this one, exploring the complexities of night scenes in Cayman. I tend to paint on the dark side so it would be a fascinating exercise for me. The colours would also be quite different at night and not your typical ‘Caribbean’ colours – lots of violets, deep reds and purples,” she states.
Also on the horizon is an idea for an exciting show that might well break new ground here in Cayman. At the moment Sue won’t reveal too many details on her proposed new project, so readers will simply have to watch this space for more info in the months to come.