The warble of a chord emanating from a rigged toy organ fills the room in Sean Sullivan’s exhibition “Within the shade of a tree.” It quivers and rings and hums after which, as if sound may very well be a picture, fades out of view. Your focus strikes elsewhere.
Greater than twenty mixed-media works are hung in a single line across the gallery like an optical poem, taking over surprisingly little area. No composition is bigger than a sq. foot. But upon these little surfaces, Sullivan expresses rather a lot.
By animating a hodgepodge of supplies, textures, and patterns, these items exhibit the makeshift peculiarities of home crafting. A couple of vignettes recall miniature interiors: In a single compartmentalized building, Rooms of various temperature and feeling, angled slopes learn as unadorned stairwells, whereas within the high-relief You are taking the spirit in (each 2021) bits of froth, wire, and cardboard turn into a fixture that calls to thoughts an architectural decoration. Regardless of their playful, diminutive scale, these works are extricated by abstraction from twee, treacly territory.
Distinct from Sullivan’s delicate draftsmanship, the works are fairly sculptural. As in shadowboxes, cardboard perimeters and partitions protrude from their surfaces, which carry dainty miscellanea. However what these shallow receptacles primarily maintain is colour, which the artist turns into one thing palpably bodily, object-like. Evoking a serviceable but slapdash placement of paint on a palette, every hue—be it a smear of white, a blob of blue, or a wash of grey—utilized in its personal distinctive method holds its personal. Sullivan’s elegantly crude tableaux come from working with what you might have, however they voice the fun of discovering what you’ll have forgotten. It’s stirring how a morsel of one thing can maintain one’s consideration, unearthing a reminiscence or delivering a quiet (but marvelous) revelation.