For most artists, tearing or cutting a painting means the end. For Chelo Sebastian, it’s a new beginning. After all, he’s an artist who has always loved the process, even though that process can be perilous.
Sebastian, who lived in Hamilton for many years and now resides in Simcoe, excels in watercolor and collage. The longer it takes to complete a job, she says, the happier she is.
“My work these days is mostly collage which takes a lot longer to figure out. Very often after working for weeks I put it aside. I can’t get it to finish so I I start another one and I work on both at the same time.Finally, I get somewhere.
Sebastian’s watercolors and collages are on display in Repertoire, a satisfying mini-retrospective featuring some thirty works made over the past 30 years.
Born in Spain, Sebastian immigrated to Canada in the late 1960s and embraced painting. She exhibits locally and internationally. She was a regular exhibitor at Hamilton’s Gallery on the Bay until it closed.
More recently, she exhibited at the prestigious Montserrat Contemporary Galley in Manhattan. She has worked at this gallery since 2015, when she responded to a “call for artists” in an art magazine, she says.
Sebastian works in a loosely figurative style. Its lines and colors are bold and intense. Straight lines are rare. Forms are closed or remain soft and fluid. His subjects are many and varied, including still life, flowers, landscape, cityscapes, architectural views, and the occasional human figure.
In ‘Clockwork II’, one of the most recent pieces in the exhibition, Sebastian makes a collage by layering a cutout of one of his paintings onto a larger painting to create a still life. The smaller painting contributes an irregular six-sided shape to the center of the composition. It contains ordinary household objects: a pair of pink cups and part of a green clock. These recognizable objects are balanced by a variety of colored spots and brushstrokes.
A picking of flowers takes center stage in “On the Floor,” a watercolour. Sebastian built his bouquet with rounded red marks, purple smudges and green lines. The flowers, made by nature, contrast with the more evenly spaced and shaped black and white floor tiles.
“I love different papers and watercolor painting,” Sebastian says of his attraction to watercolors. “Gluing has that too, but is more complex, more difficult and takes much longer to complete.”
Sébastien’s landscapes often offer wide vistas painted with loose brushstrokes and enhanced with collages.
In “When Daylight Comes”, Sebastian adds cutout squares to the lower part of his landscape. From a distance, the squares suggest small buildings, but up close they contribute to a geometric pattern on the dark earth. And the curvy magenta line that tries to separate earth and sky is another reminder that this is not a faithful reproduction of nature.
In “Downpour #3”, Sebastian takes on the human figure. This small watercolor focuses on two people whose heads are hidden behind large umbrellas. The umbrellas announce the rain; small red dots, raindrops. Red is a typical Sebastian inspired touch.
“I hate predictability,” she once said. “Trying to be less disciplined and more personal and inventive: not correcting everything, not wanting things too perfect, ignoring the need to find a reason for everything.”
Where: Earls Court Gallery, 215 Ottawa Street N.
When: until April 2
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday