The duo exhibition entitled Above and Beyond featuring the work of

Renée Duval and Melissa Doherty runs from March 14th to April 25th

at  Renann Isaacs Contemporary Art in Guelph, Ontario.

Renann Isaacs Gallery


2014 Recipient of the Laura Ciruls Painting Award
2014_Ciruls Award_News_Release













Trees that speak more to architecture than the arboreal


From Saturday’s Globe and Mail , Saturday, June 20, 2009, R10



Until June 28, 952 Queen St. W., Suite 200, Toronto; 416-921-6540

‘I think that I shall never see,” wrote poet Joyce Kilmer, rather vapidly, back in 1913, “A poem lovely as

a tree.”

And while it might, indeed, be difficult to find poems that do justice to trees, there are a lot of paintings

that take a stab at it: works by Durer, Gainsborough, Claude Lorraine, Constable, Monet, Cézanne,

Arnold Bocklin, Derain, Mondrian – it’s a long, leafy list.

So for Kitchener-based painter Melissa Doherty to have taken the tree as her only and ongoing subject,

at this point in art history, is a decision that – despite the presumably quiet pastoralism of her project -

showed some bravado. Doherty’s tiny but forceful exhibition (titled Seeing Red) of just four of her tree

paintings at Toronto’s Edward Day Gallery comes across as a miniature tour de force, an essay in

tree-spotting that transforms the tree into a structural object, and then into a site of high emotional


In Doherty’s previous works (in series such as The View, Into the Woods and Landscape Construction),

she tended to assume an aerial stance, painting as if she were hovering high above the ground with her

trees spread out far below like mazes, or the soft, quilted walls of dream castles, or hoary, fairy-tale

embattlements. Now, she has come back down to earth, confronting her trees on the ground.

But unlike the way the rest of us see trees, Doherty sees them almost as creatures. “I have always

tended to see trees in an anthropomorphic way,” she tells me over the phone from her Kitchener

studio. “I have even envisaged them as big stuffed animals. To make one group of paintings [Pine 1,

Pine 2, Pine 3], for example, I ended up actually taking apart some stuffed animals, reshaping the

stuffing material into ‘landscapes’ and painting the pictures directly from them.”

Doherty’s paintings have long been tree-green; there is now, suddenly, a lot of new colour in them -

reds mostly (thus the title of her exhibition). In paintings such as A Little Bit of Red No.2 and Autumn

Tips, for example, part of each green tree bears either a wound-like gash of red or a flame-like leap of

red in its upper branches. .

My favourite Doherty trees are still her big, softly tufted, magisterial green trees, as solid as landforms,

as nobly stern as cathedrals. One of the mysteries of these works lies in the curious surfaces which,

though supporting thousands of Doherty’s carefully painted leaves, are nevertheless as smooth as

polished wood. Doherty says she loves the soft, brushless surfaces you see in the works of the

Renaissance masters, and she found that with many layers of glazing and by continually brushing out

the textured brushwork, she could approach that same silky objectivity.

Her trees have come a long way from botany. In a painting like Willow No. 2, the branches fall heavily

to the water like pillars. In fact, Doherty’s trees speak more to the architectural than to the arboreal.