Cambridge Watercolors

At the Gropper Gallery

The complexion of an already colorful local art scene has been brightened by the appearance of a new gallery under the Brattle, in the space formerly occupied by Behn-Moore. Currently the gallery has on display oil paintings by two Cambridge artists, Tom O'Hara and Tom Sgouros.

O'Hara has a very defined, personalized style. He breaks his surfaces up into translucent shafts of color, using the new plastic tempra and ordinary watercolor to create a feeling of volume within the colors. The birds, clowns, and moody figures that fill his pictures are heavily outlined, sometimes in black, indicating an obvious debt to Roualt--and to stained glass. (See cut). A clever use of color tonalities, like the monochromatic combinations in "Persuasion" adds to the force of the artist's expression.

In contrast to his gay, decorative painting, O'Hara's subjects are somber. They express tragedy and pain. The Harlequins, flying kites in Number 13 appear to be receiving stigmata, driven into their bodies by the kite ropes. Other figures are running away, pleading, weeping, or lost in contemplation. When O'Hara succeeds in his composition he intensifies the isolation of his subjects.

Although the style shows originality in conception, it is definitely limited--as an extensive viewing of these canvases shows. Furthermore, within the limits he has set for himself, O'Hara often fails to relate his subjects to the background. "Morning Light" is an example of spatial confusion.

Water colorist Sgouros, certainly O'Hara's peer as a craftsman, is not bound by so highly conventionalized a style. He is a realist whose mastery of the medium and occasional experimentation put him above the "pretty picture" painters of houses, landscapes, and boat yards. Sgouros' most impressive quality is his technical ability. He knows enough to put a color down and leave it, making it mean something the first time. The tendency toward abstraction in "Highland Light," where an interesting tension is created by bold angular composition, is an important development in Sgouros' work.

(A review of Jean-Paul Sartre's "Dirty Hands," presented Thursday and Friday by the Canterbury Players, appears on page 4 of this issue.)