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Arleen McCallum


“Pale beneath the blaze…”  ~ the  aftermath of a house fire.


RedEye Gallery
September 2009 

Artist’s Statement: 

Last September while visiting a dear friend at his heritage home in the country, I was wakened in the night by strange noises. Fire was sweeping through the house and though we managed to escape with no injury, the house quickly burned to the ground. 

Most of the work in this show has risen from the ashes of that fire; it is an emotional reckoning of a traumatic event, and also an attempt to preserve memories of a cherished place that no longer exists. 

I knew the house and its history well and had enjoyed many long visits there over the course of 25 years. I think I loved the house as one loves a person, and its demise was like a death. 

I have been developing the techniques used in this work for many years. I enjoy combining unconventional materials in an effort to create heightened and unusual depth and texture. I have been working with foil, gold leaf and other metallics, embedding them in acrylic to create the illusion of discovering something below the surface. In this body of work, I use found objects as well. 

The colours in the paintings are those of the fire itself, the beautiful gardens that once surrounded the house, the painted walls of its interior and the after-fire debris. Most compositions invite the viewer to use the imagination to conjure the experience of a devastating fire. 

“Pale beneath the blaze” is a line from S.T. Coleridge’s poem, This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison. This excerpt was carved into the paving stones of the walk that led to the main door of the house.  Very close to that inscription, we stood and watched  helplessly as fire consumed  everything. Coleridge’s line does not refer to a fire, but to a blaze of colour – still, the sad irony remains.

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