Island Waters by Charlotte Jones

Island Waters by Charlotte Jones
Reviewed by Meagan Eve Cole
Craft Council Annex Gallery
Catch it quick! The show ends on November 10th, 2023

The Work:

Island Waters by Charlotte Jones is a collection of woodblock prints on paper, an accordion book of small prints, and watercolours on carved birch and basswood blocks. This collection of pieces documents the patterns and colours of water — above and below the surface — visited by Jones on Newfoundland’s west coast and the Port au Port Peninsula. It is a delicate collection that shows Jones’s keen sense of observation and detail. Jones’s pieces are beautiful, and like the water she is responding to, I want to know what is beneath the surface, what draws her to water. Before seeing the show, I had hoped Island Waters would be the starting point for that exploration.

The Space:

The Craft Council Galleries above The Shop and Pantry at 155 Water Street is the current home of Island Waters. Unfortunately, the doors are not equipped with an accessible button, but an elevator is available at the bottom of the stairwell. You can find The Craft Council’s full accessibility notes on their website, but it’s worth mentioning that staff members from The Shop & Pantry or The Gallery are happy to help people navigate the building. The Gallery offers the Whisperer program for visually impaired and blind persons and the option to book a “quiet time” before The Gallery opens to accommodate neurodiverse folks. Though the Annex Gallery is a small space, I appreciated that all the Island Waters pieces were arranged around the perimeter so folks with different mobility aids can easily look at each piece. The pieces were also organized at varying heights; some were above 5 feet off the floor, while others were closer to 2 or 3 feet off the floor.

The Feels:

Islands Waters is delightfully simple and pretty. The artist captures the texture and play of light and wind on the surface of water, emulating the mesmerising patterns and motions. Jones uses blue, green, and violet jewel-tones, some mixed with mica powder, to capture the dazzling sparkle and psychedelic ripples of water in the sun and breeze. The colours are soft and vivid, while the shapes are organic — Jones’s brush strokes interplay with the wood grain of the birch. As someone drawn to outdoor swimming during the warm weather, I am excited by how Jones deftly carved such fluid shapes into her woodblocks for printing. The shapes that sunlight makes on a pond are mutable as the light and wind constantly shift the water. The way the reflected light leaves an afterimage on my retina from staring too long seems to be precisely what she has captured in her series of prints within the exhibit, “Swimming.”

The Annex Gallery is lit with blue bulbs for Jones’s exhibition, giving an underwater feel to the space. The floor is dappled with the coloured light like the promenade of a large public aquarium. The people studying the prints look like mermaids with shining blue hair. This lighting lends whimsy and wonder to the show that I think imparts the ethereal quality of time spent in and around water. It is delightful to see some older folks turning about the gallery with their age-lightened hair glowing bright blue as they lean to study the lines of each piece. I think it is fair to say that Island Waters invokes childlike wonder. For folks like myself who live coastally and see wild water everyday, Jones’s work is a reminder of the beauty of water, an invitation to stop and take it in.

I wish Jones had focused less on Newfoundland in the title of her show. In her description, the brief mention of “our emotional relationship” to water highlights where Island Waters is most effective. The pieces evoke a universal feeling. For those who enjoy spending time with water, the tranquillity and joy of communing with water, especially the calm and safe water Jones has depicted, is likely the same wherever they are. When I think of Newfoundland waters, I think of the dark, raging, foaming ocean, the iron-hued ponds, or the crystal clear coves dappled with grey rocks. Jones’s pieces are like daydreams of water, anchoring them not in her geographical place but in our mental space. It was gratifying to recognize something beautiful in Jones’s artwork, but I wanted to know more about why people like myself and Charlotte Jones love to stare at water.

Meagan Eve Cole is a photographer and writer from St. John’s, NL. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, English Literature, and Film Studies from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Meagan creatively concentrates on works that explore self care and emotional growth.

The photos in this review are credited to Meagan Eve Cole.