&Gallery Edinburgh is Joan Doerr’s Soul Sanctuary

Joan Doerr, 'In the Mix', acrylic on canvas
Joan Doerr, 'In the Mix', acrylic on canvas

Views from a Sanctuary

Tue - Sat 10:00 - 17:00 Tue - Sat 10:00 - 12:00 private appointment

From: 8 May 2021

To: 2 Jun 2021

The &Gallery
3 Dundas Street
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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Joan Doerr is an abstract painter based in Edinburgh who has exhibited across the UK, including several times at the Royal Academy Summer show and selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition. Views from a Sanctuary is Joan Doerr’s first solo show with the &Gallery, a collection of new work created over the past year.

Sanctuary: a safe place of refuge and shelter; a church, haven or harbour.

Abstraction is a reflection of one’s emotions, of how one sees the world’ – Joan Doerr.

Joan Doerr, 'Arrival', acrylic on board
Joan Doerr, ‘Arrival’, acrylic on board

The geometric arrangement of Arrival is like a collection of jigsaw pieces slotted together, a series of deconstructed squares, rectangles and oblong spaces. The black block may allude to a harbour on a waterfront of zigzag piers and bridges like a sketchy architectural design. But every viewer will observe it from their own perspective.

Joan Doerr, 'In the Mix', acrylic on canvas
Joan Doerr, ‘In the Mix’, acrylic on canvas

With a more vivacious expression of gestural markings, In the Mix is a captivating, complex composition. The cool colour palette is a blend of soft greys, sage green, mustard yellow and a jagged stripe of indigo, with haphazard circles and scratches as if sketched in white chalk. Study this carefully to see the various layers of semi-opaque paint, smudged, smeared and peeling, like stripping off old wallpaper with a steamer. A slick of thick brushstrokes contrast with a row of tiny pebble shapes is all part of the finely crafted painterly technique:

‘… sometimes splattering, sometimes carefully reapplying the paint, and continuing the whole process until I am satisfied with their depth and atmosphere.’ – Joan Doerr.

Kandinsky saw the dot, or small circle, as the most basic element of painting: ‘Everything starts from a dot.’ The circle is all about order, the symbol of perfection.  

Joan Doerr, 'Close Encounters', acrylic on board
Joan Doerr, ‘Close Encounters’, acrylic on board

Close Encounters depicts a rhythmic swirl of distorted, interconnected circles and egg-shaped ovals as if floating and flying in the air, a mass of billowing clouds. The effect is like an 3D optical illusion with this overlay of ‘chalk’ drawings on the surface. The muted grey-green background could symbolise a patchwork of fields and a river, a hint at recognisable elements of the natural world. 

Joan Doerr, 'Sway', acrylic on board
Joan Doerr, ‘Sway’, acrylic on board

With a brighter, bolder blue palette, Sway immediately evokes the impression of rolling waves, dripping watery streaks and splashing movement in this multi-faceted, textured tapestry. 

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye’ – Dorothy Parker.

Joan Doerr, 'The Awakening', acrylic on paper
Joan Doerr, ‘The Awakening’, acrylic on paper

One wall has a stunning display of more simplified abstracts, painted in acrylic on paper, pared down, minimalist shapes emphasising bold colour and decorative design. The Awakening has the suggestion of Springtime’s renewal of nature, like blossoming buds on a tree, within this pure, linear pattern of such delicate precision.

Joan Doerr, 'Ignite', acrylic on paper
Joan Doerr, ‘Ignite’, acrylic on paper

A fiery explosion of orange and turquoise is also a jazzy juxtaposition of thickly smeared stripes, parallel blocks and ad hoc rings in ‘Ignite’, with geometric fluidity.

Joan Doerr has a unique artistic vocabulary and vision exploring a carefully choreographed medley of wandering lines, dancing shapes and blended tones of colour. Many quirky titles too – Hidden Happy, No Messin’, Topsy-Turvy, The Party’s Over – describe a whirlwind of mixed emotions in this quiet, soulful, serene artwork. Views from a Sanctuary no doubt reflects the artist’s personal experiences of the past year, a meditative and thoughtful observation of isolation and solitude. The underlying sense of humorous wit, however, gives a positive spirit as we venture towards a post-pandemic brave new world. 

With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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