The Drawers - Lorne Wagman  Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Lorne Wagman hooks into the Group of Seven with a psychedelic twist of heightened awareness. Their weightier hand and sense of the rugged outdoors is softened by his painterly veneer of specific enrapture. As he focuses on the delicate splendour of repetition, the moment is brought alive and transferred onto the canvas or paper with a slip-sliding ease that in turn permits an observance of equal ease. The experience is akin to a naturist's innocence, a lack of self consciousness that allows for an authentic and hence believable commune with nature. A Wagman painting allows a respite for the world weary, a rest from the stress of social obligations and financial worry. The work is not 'work' to look at, but leisure time at its best. Although the evidence of 'work' is extreme the time needed to record each leaf, twig, bark encrusted stump or lichenous, mossy bank is palpable - the result is loose and free like a glide down a slope where the drifts buoy to achieve an absolute letting go of the tension that is endemic in modern living.

Lorne Wagman's studio is in an outbuilding of a field stone house in the woods, where flocks of sparrows have been seen flying from the windows, where the inside and the outside live in harmonious simpatico and where Wagman paints and draws every day with the rhythm of one who has mastered the hours and converted the quotidian into a comfortable way of being between man and nature. “The humble shall inherit the earth.” There are many biblical notions in this work for who but one who is sufficiently humble to listen and look would be granted the particular powers of observation to discern between blades or leaves or branches? With the rigor of a monk-like discipline and unwavering focus, Wagman conducts his practice in sync with his lifestyle and does indeed inherit great riches - the talent to communicate the concerns of the creator through his art.

The work is informed - not a primitive take on the immediate but rich in art historical references that range from the immersion of Courbet to the overall flat patterning of Chinese landscape painting. The work is disciplined and rigorous yet sensuous and flowing. The colors are lush or hushed or vibrant and moving. The principle impression is one of awe created by the recognition that Wagman is a master painter. He has the ability to use paint so that it remains paint and yet suggests otherwise, as in the painting The Rites of Spring. There is a flattened picture plain as if the perspective has been presented as a cross section and in doing so has become heightened in vivacity. The lusciousness of paint and the practice of moving it around on a canvas is present yet so are the plants and the leave and the stump towering like a magic castle.

Lorne double-lines the miniscule and hence it assumes a greater significance. A plant is outlined rather than rendered with a singular line. There is the memory of a hymn - “God sees the little sparrows fall” - in the renderings for there is equanimity in place. Whether it is a weed, rock or cloying lichen, each is treated like an individual. These are crowds of portraits with the identity of each element as important as the mass. Each patch is different from the next attesting to the attention paid in the divine creation.

It requires the dedication of close encounters to understand and record the squiggles and squirms of the bush. With the sensitive lines of a competent draftsman, Lorne Wagman passes over to those not calm enough to spend the time observing the comings and goings of nature or to those not brave enough to endure the outdoor distractions of weather - a complex eco system where weeds have a spot as relevant as death and trees become symbols for the sublime.

Copyright © 2008,  Julie Oakes