Thursday, March 13, 2008


Jiji Saunders’ encaustic paintings brighten Childhood’s End.

Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 13, 2008

Pictured: "Tree Worship No. 157," encaustic, by JiJi Saunders, photo courtesy Childhood's End Gallery

This week I dropped by Childhood’s End in Olympia where the featured artist is Jiji Saunders. She does colorful landscapes in encaustic on wood. She makes good use of the encaustic media with rough textures and murky depths. Her landscapes are kind of Wolf Kahn-esque. Each painting features a single leafy tree standing in an open field at sunset (or dawn — anyway, lots of fiery orange). In many of the paintings the single tree is centered on a wood panel. The leaves are either bright orange or green with grass and skies painted orange, yellow, blue or green. Mostly, the trees stand on the horizon line and often near the top of the format. The compositions are simple and nicely balanced with the exception of two paintings in which almost everything is either orange or yellow but each with a white cloud that comes into the picture plane from the right edge. Without the clouds, these two paintings would have been among the best in the show. But it’s as if she couldn’t trust herself to be that minimalist and just had to add the clouds.

The painting with the strongest impact is Tree Worship No. 157 (pictured here), which is tall and thin at 72 by 20 inches. I like the hazy glow of orange leaves next to the clear blue sky, but not so much her handling of the ground.

Best in the show is a group of 17 small, square paintings. This seems to be the ideal format for Saunder’s style and subject matter. Some of the paintings in this grouping are excellent, and they look good as a group. There are also a few paintings on constructed wooden boxes with a recessed square in the middle. The painting in these is nice, but the square-in-a-square is just gimmicky.

Also showing are ceramic and metal sculptures by John and Robin Gumaelius. These are funny, funky, birds and bird men that the husband and wife team creates together. There are men with bird heads and men with birds on their heads, and there are fat birds perched on stick-thin legs (which is, of course, very birdlike). These ceramic sculptures are very elaborate with kind of art nouveau surface decoration. They’re a lot of fun, and any one of them would probably be a terrific conversation starter sitting on someone’s coffee table or mantel.

[Childhood’s End Gallery, Monday-Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., through March 31, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia, 360.943.3724]

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