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Salt Spring Island, BC,
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David Jackson's Owl with the painting Thunder behind. Jackson's solo exhibit continues at Gallery 8.
Photo by Elizabeth Nolan

Salt Spring artist David Jackson is in the spotlight this summer with both a June Aqua magazine profile and a solo show now running at Gallery 8.

Gallery 8's decision to hang its feature shows upstairs seems more brilliant with every visit: While the gallery's renovation and expansion places all works at good advantage, the spacious second level gallery gives a solo show like Jackson's room for serious viewing, focus and contemplation.

Long known for his realistic bird sculptures, Jackson has recently moved into experimenting with painting, with a recent series that has burst forth as vividly coloured abstract expressionism. The artistic freedom characterizing the large paintings contrasts completely with Jackson’s quiet and carefully rendered bird sculptures, suggesting two extremes of his artistic expression as different but as self-completing as yin and yang.

Jackson's newest paintings will draw inevitable comparisons to another Jackson: that's Pollock, the artist who made Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism household words in the mid-20th century. Certainly the technique of layering dribbles and drips onto canvas appears very similar. Where the Salt Spring Jackson adds his unique flare is in his colour choices, evoking different moods and emotions in each piece. Miro has the look of a Japanese screen painting. Its silvery background is overlaid with delicate dots and gestural movements in red and black. Most of the lines are very fine, with just a few thicker black marks for emphasis.

Thunder is heavily atmospheric, with thicker dribbles that occur under the final layer of paint, providing layers of texture and dimension rather than colour. The canvas is divided with a horizon, dull red above and deep ruddy brown below. Highlights of yellow have been rubbed into the textured smears just below the horizon line. The squiggles of paint are thicker in this piece, with bold energetic movements that suggest the chaos about to be unleashed by the storm.

Pink and Orange, two of Jackson's smaller paintings at 24 by 24 inches, are built on a process of colour relationships. Orange contrasts the keynote colour — a bright processed cheese orange — with the deep orange of a mature pumpkin shell, along with shades of blue and tiny hints of green and black.

In Pink, the dominant colour is a perky bubblegum against a black background. Green is the key contrast here, with complementary shades of baby blue and turquoise. In both cases Jackson shows a keen eye for putting combinations together that not only work, but produce feelings of vitality and joy in the viewer.

Jackson's small painted bronze sculptures of birds reveal the other side of his creative potential, one that is concerned with careful observation and detail rather than joyful abandon. His delicate hand produces individual feathers that look so soft one visitor reportedly felt prompted to blow on them to see if they fluttered. Imaginative aspects make each sculpture unique: Miniature Crow, all black, holds a tiny blue egg in its beak. Owl holds one wing up and over its lower face like a stage villain with his cape.

Peregrine Falcon is a larger carving in Brazilian soapstone. The bird swoops upward, his wings on the down stroke connecting with the heavy base. The deep green, almost black stone is shot through with several veins of lighter green. Jackson has left one of the wings smooth to feature a concentration of the lighter stone, while rendering the other in fine detail.

Jackson's solo exhibit continues at Gallery 8 until Aug. 7.

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