Seeing Bridgewater anew

by Charles Mandel

In one of the strangest prints in Raymond Chow's art show currently on at the Desbrisay Museum in Bridgewater, a smiling Mickey Mouse paints a portrait of Mona Lisa as a mouseketeer.

She, of the enigmatic smile, poses for the mischievous rodent.

The kicker? The address of the building the unlikely pair are in front of is 157 King Street, Bridgewater. Except that no such address appears to exist.

I don't think we're in Kansas, any more, Toto. In fact, I'm not even sure we're in Bridgewater.

In his solo exhibit titled Capturing Community, the Pleasantville-based artist is sly that way.

Ostensibly Chow offers a number of paintings, prints and pen and ink drawings which depict Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and other South Shore destinations.

But Chow is an artist and one who enjoys playing with and manipulating reality, often in subtle ways.

The bulk of the show consists of a wall of three rows of prints of pen and ink works, largely centred around King Street in Bridgewater. Another row of prints in the museum's corridor focuses on locations in Bridgewater outside of King, mostly big box stores and mall store fronts.

Chow lovingly captures the architectural details of the often historic buildings he sketches, but he can't resist embellishing them with a bit of whimsy either.

Chow's sense of playfulness shows up in a giant pair of scissors propped against the side of the River Clipper Barbershop, and again, with an out-sized fork leaning against the Kitchen Witch store.

Generally, by isolating every building Chow sketches he invites the viewer to take a closer look and see the streetscape anew.

He also fills his prints with reoccurring motifs. In several of them the same child rides a bicycle, while in others a dog is seen trotting away.

A number of Chow's acrylics are also on display. These paintings show the artist's strong and certain use of perspective and colour, although the subject matter in a couple of the paintings seem off-topic.

A painting of a cat on a leash, the latter winding around a woman's legs, appears out of place in this exhibit.

On the other hand, a hyper-realistic work of King Street viewed from the old bridge with a skateboarder precariously grinding the rails above the LaHave River - don't try this, kids! - shows the precision Chow is capable of achieving in his art.

Witty and full of verve, Capturing Community is a show not to be missed.

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