A shared vision — with some differences — at A.P.E. Gallery

  • Laura Radwell, left and Kate Childs, here seen in Radwell’s Easthampton studio, have opened a joint exhibit of their landscape paintings at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kate Childs holds a painting by Laura Radwell next to one of her own in Radwell’s Easthampton studio. The two friends have opened a shared exhibit at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Radwell, left and Kate Childs, here seen in Radwell’s Easthampton studio, have opened a joint exhibit of their landscape paintings at the A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kate Childs, left and Laura Radwell in Radwell’s Easthampton studio. The two landscape painters share basic approaches to painting but also offer contrasting styles; Radwell’s work is to the left, Childs’ to the right.  —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kate Childs, left and Laura Radwell examine paintings in Radwell’s studio as they discuss which work to include in their shared exhibit at Northampton’s A.P.E. gallery. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “Summer’s Desination,” oil by Kate Childs Image courtesy of Kate Childs

  • “Sunrise Daydream,” oil by Kate Childs Image courtesy of Kate Childs

  • “Balenca,” oil by Laura Radwell Image courtesy of Laura Radwell

  • “Nova Blu,” oil by Laura Radwell — Image courtesy of Laura Radwell

Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2017 4:10:26 PM

As Kate Childs and Laura Radwell see it, art should ideally provoke an emotional response, a feeling that comes more from the heart than the head.

And if the artist approaches his or her work from that same perspective — from a sense of imagination, even sensuality — than the viewer’s response should follow.

That’s the theme animating the shared exhibit the two painters and friends have just opened at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery. “2 Behold: Feelings figured into landscape” juxtaposes Childs’ soft, dreamy oil paintings of fields, marshes and seashore with Radwell’s more abstract tableaus — oil paintings that she says “are about me thinking in color.”

It’s the first shared exhibit for the two artists, who have studios a floor apart at 1 Cottage Street in Easthampton. Over the years, says Radwell, as they reviewed each other’s work, shared ideas or just hung out together, it struck her that they both worked from the same foundation.

“I think we start from a similar place,” said Radwell. “We both like to create atmosphere, not specific details.”

Childs, for one, takes photographs of some of the places she likes to walk, whether it’s around the Valley, at Cape Cod or other locales. But the photos, she says, become more “a reference for the feeling of a place,” rather than a distinct blueprint that she copies from.

Radwell says she bases her abstract landscapes on images she’s gleaned from looking at other landscape paintings, or simply by observing the world around her. A painting might begin “based on something I saw on my way to work … I carry different impressions in my head.”

And when she gets set to put paint to canvas, Radwell added, “I trust that something that I like will emerge.”

The A.P.E. show, which opens today and runs through May 28, features roughly 20 paintings, predominantly larger ones measuring either 36 x 36 inches or 40 x 40. Childs and Radwell decided to give all the work enough space so that each painting could be viewed without others to distract from them.

Sky, space and color

Childs, who’s been doing her romantic landscapes for at least 10 years, says she had studied more detailed styles of painting in art school years ago but became more drawn to abstract painting as a professional. Then several years ago, she got a dog and began taking long walks through fields and woods — and soon she was drawn to landscapes.

Fields, riverbanks and the seashore particularly appealed to her. “They’re so open they make me feel really good — like a breath of fresh air,” said Childs. “And I was really drawn by the contrasting light.”

Light — and a sense of space — are indeed a central part of Childs’ work. Her paintings are roughly two-thirds sky and one-third ground, in which soft shades of blue, yellow, green and gold arc over undulating ground that’s pretty loosely defined, such that the horizon’s not always clear.

In “Evening Dream,” for instance, clouds lit by a now-vanished sun seem to hover just above a grassy seashore, suggesting small hills in the background; overhead the sky is much darker, with a few wispy clouds tinged with purple.

Childs says she also took up her impressionistic landscapes after taking some printmaking workshops; the simplicity of those images, and the mystery of not knowing what a print would look like beforehand, struck her as qualities she wanted to bring to her painting.

When she starts a painting, Childs notes, “I like not having a specific image in mind but a feeling, a memory.” In fact, she says she often has six to seven separate landscapes going at once, so that she can move from one canvas to another if she feels stuck on one painting or has a new idea for modifying another one.

For her part, Radwell says that when she started painting about 30 years ago, she did much more realistic, studied landscapes and some still lifes. But eventually she became drawn to more abstract images.

“I don’t like feeling confined,” she said. “I like texture and layering and feeling like I can go anywhere.”

In fact, though, Radwell stopped painting for many years when she started a communications and graphic design business that took up much of her time.

Instead, she turned to digital photography, using layered images to create different effects. She also used digital “paints” and pigments to create abstract images.

But about three years ago a friend, the late Northampton artist Greg Stone, urged her to pick up her paint brushes again, and Radwell has since emerged with a wealth of abstract oil paintings that she likens to landscapes.

Her colors are vibrant and, like Childs’ work, many of her paintings seem to offer a blend of sky and loosely defined ground or water. “Balenca,” for one, suggests huge storm clouds being partly blown aside by winds that let sunshine light some of the lower clouds.

But Radwell describes her canvases more as “landscapes of the mind … I think they’re really about perception and memory.”

In fact, she says she hopes both her work and that of Childs will be open to interpretation and that visitors to the A.P.E. exhibit will draw different conclusions.

“I think the show will give people the ability to wander and draw something from their own imagination,” she said.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

“2 Behold: Feeling figured into landscape” opens Thursday at the A.P.E. Gallery, 126 Main St., Northampton and runs through May 28. An artists’ reception takes place May 12 from 5-8 p.m. on the city’s monthly Arts Night Out.

For visiting hours and additional information, visit www.apearts.org.


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