Don Li-Leger is a truly universal artist who has traveled around the world, studied under many important painters and illustrators and worked and experimented with a wide range of media and themes. Check out the websites of art galleries that exhibit his work: Canada House Gallery, Hambleton Galleries, Petley-Jones Gallery, White Rock Gallery. One of his latest abstract (or perhaps pseudo-abstract) paintings (the Poppy Nine Patch) occupies the third place on art.com Best Seller list: it is a warm, welcoming piece that shows a playful sense of humor and a broad high-spirited appeal; it also marks the culmination of the artist’s career and creative searches. The synthesis of the abstract element of dissection and deconstruction with the more traditional landscape theme of poppies is complete and somehow “wise.” Neither part dominates the other and the piece soothes with balance and overall harmony .
The nine squares remind of windows or doors: each one is a possible way out into the open, where the flowers grow. The artist establishes a link between indoors and outdoors, if only in the viewer’s mind. Each square is a basic abstract element based on Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square, and the entire work — the sum of the parts — is another allusion to the groundbreaking masterpiece. Sometimes it may seem that the geometry theme takes precedence over the rest, and the flowers only decorate the two dimensional plates. However, the muted emotional impact of symmetrical geometrical interplay cannot emulate the liveliness of the poppies, which literally pop up here, there and everywhere.
Focusing solely on the decorative element gradually reveals that there is a full landscape distributed between the parts of whole. Interestingly, the mood makes itself felt even without a visual reconstruction; the general impression is of an autumnal, warm day progressing towards its end — a touch of romance and sadness with a large dose of warm optimism. The red of the flowers accords perfectly with the shades of brown, yellow and wine-red. The irregular form of the stems and the blooms enlivens the strict linear division. Ultimately, this painting relaxes and instills feelings of security because all elements complement each other without breaking into the other’s thematic territory.
The humorous part consists of the artist’s invitation to play tag and try and recreate a more coherent landscape. The thing is, I don’t think it’s possible — it seems as though the painter cheats a little, teasing the audience. The semblance of a game tricks the viewers to fix their gaze on the piece for a little longer than usual, and absorb all that warm welcoming energy. The somewhat confusing light square in the middle serves as a vacuum area that catches the viewer’s attention, which then would be diffused between the peripheral squares. Eventually, this central “point of entry” gives the piece its edge: it keeps the color scheme slightly off-balance and reminds us that this is an abstract work of art after all.