PAINTING WITH FIRE

For the past 12 years, Bruce R. MacDonald has worked in his space at 180 Flynn ave. in Burlington’s south end. Recently, though, his space became open to the public in the second-floor hay loft of the 101 year old building now known as Gallery 180, which features MacDonald’s stainless steel and copper canvases. The floor is suspended from the ceiling.MacDonald, who has “every tool that scrapes metal known to man” in his studio, uses tools and heat to create his canvases. “It’s a way of painting with hot gasses,” he said of his copper pieces. Imagine the colors on the blasting cap of a model rocket. “Turner,” a copper panel, is his medium’s rendition of the 1817 painting “The Eruption of Vesuvius” by William Turner. The richly violent warm tones replaced with organic shapes created by the very elements whose power they seek to capture.The key is that instead of a haphazard distribution of property-changing heat, MacDonald can control what it does with different, burning materials like sand, wood and gravel, amongst other things. Like dodging a photograph when it’s still in its stages of development, he too is also able to manipulate surface textures and patterns to create coherent works of art.He also works on stainless steal. Initially what appears to be cold industrial abstractions, slowly give way into cohesive landscapes, still lifes and scenes of cosmic birth and regeneration. “Chaos Majestic,” a vision of the birth of the universe, recalls artists like Caspar David Friedrich and is a little Blakeian in its awe of the majesty and power of nature. Because of the way the metal is tooled, what would be brush strokes extract their light from the space around them. You can’t tell if they’re actually a-tonal. Ribbons of light seem to jump out at you, a little like 3D imagining, you have to “use your hands to let you know.” Spend a little time letting your eyes glaze over in front of “Reeds” and you’ll be amazed at how effective his style is in evoking his subjects. Spend some more time in front of “The View” and realize how a steady hand and a penetrating gaze can render line and form with the exactitude of a calligraphist from the Japanese Muromachi period.He says in his artist’s statement, “as a kid I had space books with images of nebulae and galaxies and I would wait up late at night in a canoe out on the lake on evenings to catch the northern lights.”