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A PAS-SING GLANCE: PAS MEMBER MICHAEL SILVERSTONE

written by Erica Lindsay Walker, vice president, education chair

I happen to love winter. Yes, it’s cold and inconvenient and sometimes seems to last forever, but there is nothing like its light or stillness. I love just standing outside and drinking in the white hush of winter solitude. For me, seeing Michael Silverstone’s graphite drawing was like being transported into such a day. I step into it and I can hear the silence.

Stillness

Stillness

Like nature itself, the drawing might seem haphazard at first glance, but it’s soon very clear how much order is present. Our eyes travel through the various planes of distance and back again, circling both around and through the work. Lights and darks are skilfully balanced, enhancing each other and guiding the eye. Value is a particular challenge here because this kind of even light, the light of an overcast snowy day, flattens space. Shadows tend to disappear. So the artist has made the most of the contrast between the whites and the dark trunks and branches, setting both against the rich textured gray of the background trees.

This work is amazingly varied, given how little Silverstone has to work with. Just a lot of trees and snow – but how much he gets out of this! Basically, the design consists of many long verticals relieved by a few abrupt diagonals and even some unexpected curves – a branch that suddenly bends back, a twig meandering around another twig. Patches and puffs of white make wonderful irregular shapes; the spatters of snow on bark remind me of Jackson Pollock. Every little ball of snow, every branch, is different. You can let your eyes travel and linger throughout the work and you will never be bored.

Another important element is the areas of pure white at the bottom. These larger shapes relieve the mass of fine crisscrossing lines and shapes. They “ground” the work, weighting it and providing a place for the eye to rest. A triangular area of light values at the top of the work mirrors them somewhat. Placed just right of centre, this area is not as bright as the shapes at the bottom, but it counters the others and provides a gentle visual ballast.

Every season, including winter, has things about it that I look forward to every year. This is a drawing of what I miss most. Thank you Michael Silverstone!

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