Ways of Mapping Sunshine

Jaqueline Houghton

Sunshine generally connotes warmth, vitality and a sense of contentment. In many world traditions it is synonymous with the radiance of spiritual enlightenment. Although philosophical and ecological musings inform the imagery in Seabastion Toast’s new body of work, her intention is more to do with sunshine’s power to illuminate and educe form. “ The title of the exhibition really describes what we do as painters,” explains Toast. “Everything we see is a reflection of light. My subjects operate to map the beams of light as they bounce off form. I am searching for the visual rhythms.”
Toast describes her paintings as a symbiosis of figuration and abstraction. “I amplify abstraction to blur the boundaries in figure/ground relationships. The indeterminate quality of a form in its surrounds is to suggest the interdependence of the human and animal worlds. My works are a dance of ideologies!” Seeking the tonal patterns that have aesthetic resonance, Toast composes with light as much as spatial considerations. The direct spontaneity of her brush markings confers a sensory appeal that transports the viewer into an altogether different dimension of vibratory awareness.
The painting, Flower Bee, exemplifies this immersive reverie in the forces of nature. We witness the bee’s outline fragmenting into a multi-hued bliss of petals and sweet-scented nectar. House Sparrow evokes a somewhat contrary response. The bird’s shape is more defined and isolated from a background that seems to have retreated in wan washes of muted colour. A creature estranged from its natural habitat, the sparrow projects a defiant, almost accusatory countenance.
A hushed aura suffuses the imagery in Sleeping Swan. Head gently tucked in repose, the swan is afloat on inky waters, its plumage glowing white in striking contrast. Essentially, it is a thoroughly abstract work. Compositional mastery is evinced with a minimum of gestural strokes across the canvas. The vivid orange of the swan’s beak, the streak of complimentary blue directly below in the water and flickers of bright pink create a loose triangular configuration. Attention thus focused, the beak’s orientation towards a lightening of palette hints at a new day’s dawning and the return of sunshine.
In summation, Toast imparts, “My artistic quest is to find ways of mapping sunshine: to describe essence and all the wonder when things have slowed and time is given to the fleeting moments that are an expression of our own lives.”