Exhibition Review: A Time For Paws

‘A Time for Paws’ features a range of paintings by local artists Margaret Slape-Phillips and Elise Leslie-Allen that celebrate the world of domestic animals.

Presented by Gallery M
Reviewed 4 September 2015

A Time for Paws features a range of paintings by local artists Margaret Slape-Phillips and Elise Leslie-Allen that celebrate the world of domestic animals (specifically cats and dogs). These works will delight and entertain all those who take the time to view them.

Slape-Phillips works focus on her beloved cats, presenting them in a variety of creative ways. Her paintings include a gallery of individual head portraits of her cats, as well as dramatic still-lifes, whose richly colourful backgrounds vary from scenic lakes to homes decorated with exotic plants, stain-glassed windows and luxuriously patterned cushions. These are a romanticised interpretation of animal portraiture, reminiscent of those found in the homes of 18th century European aristocracy. As such, they are a refreshing break from the modern artistic take on animals.

Throughout Slape-Phillips’ work you are aware of her intimate knowledge of the different feline breeds and their characteristics. She combines this expertise with creative perspectives, such as the use of multiple angles and different sections of the cat’s body to draw the viewer into an interesting relationship with the subjects. Some cats assume regal poses confronting the viewer with a direct gaze, whilst others are captured dosing, indifferent to the audience’s attention. Light is another tool skilfully used to create character and atmospheric differences between each of the painting’s feline subjects.

Time for Paws 1Leslie-Allen’s approach to domestic animals contrasts with Slape-Phillips more serious tone, as she looks at the more comical side of pets. Her works feature a range of different animals such as dogs, cats (and a duckling and fish) all in amusing poses or situations. She captures the everyday hilarity that pets often provide such as the aftermath of chewing on a training manual, staring hungrily at a terrified fish in a fish bowl, or begging for more food with their theatrically large, pleading eyes. The humour is often continued in her whimsical titles, a personal favourite being Reclining Nude.

Her style is significantly different to Slape-Phillips, providing a fresh interpretation of similar subject matter. Her cats and dogs are beautifully painted in a style that nudges the edge of caricature, but this often enriches the character of her mischievous subjects. In contrast to Slape-Phillips complex and rich background, Leslie-Allen’s clean, white backgrounds allow the finer details of her images to shine, especially the furry details, ranging from long and silky, to short and coarse. You can’t help but lean in to examine the fine brushstrokes of these oh-so cute creatures.

This is a delightful exhibition that will brighten any animal lover’s day with its detailed and creative presentation of the domestic animals that fill our daily lives.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Venue: Gallery M, Marion Cultural Centre, 287 Diagonal Road, Oaklands Park
Season: 4 – 27 September
Tickets: Free entry

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