Holly Briesmaster has exhibited her watercolour landscapes and collages in many group shows (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit, Art Gallery of Mississauga Juried Show, Mill Pond Gallery in Richmond Hill, Varley Art Museum in Unionville), and has had several solo and duo shows (including The Illuminary Art Gallery and Pteros Gallery in Toronto, McKay Art Centre in Unionville, and most recently, Gallery Hittite in Toronto).
Throughout the world, the fan has had a long history as a decorative and utilitarian object. The earliest known fans, used over five millennia ago, were made of palm leaves or feathers. There is a rich cultural history of fans, and of painting on fans, in many countries. The fan is an organic shape. The arc of its edge, and the repetition of its line, echo the growth pattern and form of many natural objects. Think of a leaf, a bat’s wing, a shell structure, the extended tail feathers of birds, or the human hand splayed.
To quote D’Arcy Thompson, the world’s first biomathematician, “Some curves are more elegant than others.” Fans fascinate us for their elegant curve and form and for the pattern and proportion of their parts.
By changing the format of the painted surface from the rectangular canvas or sheet of paper, the fundamental rules are made to shift. With the semicircular fan, instead of a frame or border, there are sticks and guards. A third dimension is established before paint arrives on the surface. The pleats create different planes, which may be read sequentially (left to right or right to left) or as segments (quarter past, quarter to). The semicircle suggests incompleteness, and paradoxically, the possibility of continuance. Light angles at unexpected intervals. Colour is form. Forms emerge and retreat. All becomes decoratively deceptive. A buttressing energy radiates from beneath the folds.
The fan also has its kinetic and sculptural aspects, stemming from its original function of relieving heat and driving off insects. Even at rest, a fan reminds us of the air around us. Any surface that moves back and forth in an arc from a fulcrum or fixed point acts as a fan. The range of shapes is not limited: from the oval or circle to the semicircle and includes the intermediate ginkgo leaf shape and the narrower, elongated sheaf of plumes. Potential, if not actual, motion, on the one hand, and a partial and temporary concealment, on the other, are integral elements.
A fan is like a hand-held palette. It is also architectural; a moving or static arch. Blurring the boundaries between artifact and art object, the fan offers multiple possibilities. Among them: language as signal, form as function, stillness as latent movement, gesture as fact.
- Holly Briesmaster and Janice Jackson
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