The Waters of March
By Siobhan Angus
The waters of March are among the first signs of spring, preceded only by the gradual change in light. Susan G. Scott’s The Waters of March is an extended meditation on the natural world that wonderfully captures the cool illumination of early spring. Scott’s abstract landscapes deftly utilize rhythm, a vibrant palate, and loose composition, guiding the viewer through a lyrical world of light and colour.
The Waters of March situates us in a natural world coursing with energy and life. All of
the works that appear in The Waters of March portray aspects of a tiny stream outside Scott's country studio. Over the course of seven years, Scott revisited this scene, allowing it to take on monumental proportions.
The majority of the show is comprised of Scott’s most recent series, the Waters of Light and the Waters of Half Light. Painted on terraskin with white background, these works abandon the figures that appear in her earlier series Oasis, and the coloured backgrounds of her Forest series.
While the title of the show references the waters of spring, it is Scott’s masterful exploration of the nuances of light that defines the terraskin series. Scott’s painterly landscapes are infused with the bright and cool sun of March, a visual testament to Pierre Bonnard’s suggestion that, “there is always colour, it has yet to become light.”
The contrast of warm and cool shades creates the effect of intense light, anchored by the white background, achieving both flat and spatial elements.
The emerging warmth of spring peeks through in her vivid colours, while the rhythmic pacing of line guides the viewer through the landscape. Through Scott’s gestural application, the vivid hues move and shift across the remarkable lightness of the canvas. While grounded in abstraction, Scott’s canvasses maintain a narrative quality, moving beyond the recreation of a specific moment in time to convey a living, breathing natural world constantly in flux.
Scott’s terraskin watercolours were painted en-plein-air, and they pulse with the energy of the outdoors in spring. For the oil-on-terraskin works, Scott works a la prima, or wet-on-wet, a technique where layers of wet paint are applied to previous layers of wet paint. Working quickly with broad gestures, her works maintain a dialogue with an ever-changing nature.
Influenced by Chinese and Japanese landscape painting, Scott’s paintings abandon traditional perspective, rather choosing to situate the viewer directly within the landscape. The exclusion of the horizon line changes the engagement of the viewer to the work; as Scott explains, “instead of situating oneself in the unknown or in a very certain perspectival space, one is situating the body in a much more direct presence.” The remarkable nearness of Scott’s paintings creates a sense of being ‘in’ and traveling through the landscape, establishing a rare immediacy of feeling.
There is a deep connection in Scott’s work to the mysterious and meditative aspects of the natural world, her landscapes are at once gentle and enticing, and wild and unpredictable. The felled branches that appear in many of the landscapes epitomize this, both a symbol of destruction, and a way forward, a path across a river. Scott’s lyrical meditation on the natural world is dynamic and alive, placing her among Canada’s best landscape painters. In Scott’s landscapes, the viewer travels through a world of flowing water, rustling foliage, and constantly shifting light, reminding us that there is always more to discover just around the bend.
Waters no. 7, 2013, oil on terraskin, 28 40 in.