CAPTURING THE SPIRIT OF THE WILD
Visitors flock to the West Coast to see and experience its soaring mountain peaks, lush rainforests, rugged coastal waters and the wildlife that inhabits these untouched places. Many Canadians and indigenous peoples have fought for the conservation and preservation of the wilderness. Canadian artists, whether political or not, play a role in offering a unique view and spiritual interpretation of both Canadian and international wilds, places so remote most of us will never have the opportunity to see them with our own eyes. “Many of our top artists gain a lot of their greatest inspiration from painting outdoors,” says Benjamin McLaughlin, director of communications at Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont. The gallery has a program that encourages its artists to paint en plein air. Artists are flown into remote areas to paint, especially in Banff and Jasper, Alberta, where the gallery has two more locations. McLaughlin notes that the artists aren’t just painting from a photograph they found on Google. “By actually being out there hiking, exploring these remote wilderness places, they’re humbled by what they experience and I think that is reflected within the landscapes that they paint.”
Earlier this year, in collaboration with the Pacific Wild Foundation, Mountain Galleries held the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Exhibition, a group show comprising the work of its artists who have travelled to the Great Bear Rainforest and surrounding areas to paint. McLaughlin adds, “Each artist that travelled there had their own interpretation of the landscape and the impact the wildlife and biodiversity had on them personally.” Artist Charlie Easton spent a full month there kayaking, living off the land and painting, inspired by the area. Easton is pictured painting at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park, B.C. (Pages 82-83) Painter Mike Svob, represented by the Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery, also visited the Great Bear Rainforest as part of a venture named Art for an Oil Free Coast. Organized by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the expedition was an effort to halt the transport of petroleum products by supertankers through the area. “Most of our artists are inspired by this landscape we live in,” says Amy Billinghurst, director at Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery. “They see the beauty that surrounds them and they try and capture that.” Svob is an ideal example of an artist whose work is deeply influenced by the environment, as shown in his painting Lake Louise Reflections. “He has his own unique way of depicting the beautiful West Coast landscape,” says Billinghurst. “His work is very recognizable by his bold use of colour and brushwork.” Susie Cippola, painter of Wise One, is a Pemberton artist known for her artwork depicting bears. “People seem to be so intrigued with this local species,” Billinghurst says. “They like to be able to bring a bear home with them.” One of the challenges of living close to the wilderness is learning how to live in harmony with wildlife, a challenge that the Whistler community is constantly tackling. However, proximity does present plenty of opportunities for artists to view these magnificent wild creatures — an unforgettable experience for anyone. “A lot of our clientele are international, and I feel they purchase a piece of Canadian art for that reason; they like to take a piece
of their experience home with them,” Billinghurst says. “You can’t be a landscape artist unless you have admiration for the land that you’re painting,” says Jeanine Messeguer, director of the Whistler Contemporary Gallery. Messeguer also believes artists are taking more of a global view in their subject matter, rather than strictly a backyard view. River Delta #34 is a photograph by Lawrence Jiang, a British Columbia photographer who has spent the past couple of years photographing the largest icecap in Iceland, the Vatnajökull, trying to document the massive glacier before it disappears. Messeguer adds that his landscape images are very contemporary, aligning with a movement in a younger generation of artists who are trying to create their own new artistic pathways. “Clients are buying more edgy work. They want landscapes not to be just a representation of someone’s view of a scene but for the artwork to make a statement and be more thoughtprovoking. Contemporary galleries are revisiting landscapes, but it’s not your traditional landscape.” Mark Richards is a local artist who regularly uses the trail network and logging roads in and around Whistler to access the backcountry to create his artwork. Sunset on Seton Lake is an example of his unique process of combining dramatic photography taken in the wilderness, and photo stencilling back in his studio. “We all have a duty to protect the environment,” says Richards. He credits local mountain-biking clubs, businesses and countless volunteers for the proper maintenance of many of the trails in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. Richards has personally sponsored trail building days through the Mark Richards Gallery, as his way of giving back. “As a business I think it’s important, and I am a part of the community. I feel I want to give back because it’s a good investment in the trails,” he says. “I personally use them, it’s good for tourism, and it’s just good all around.” He also acknowledges the apparent contradiction of using logging roads to reach some of the wilderness areas to take photos, and the need for balance between industry and environmental protection. “I’m thankful these roads exist. Hopefully the industry is more sustainable now, and if it really is into longevity, they’ll have trees to log in the future.” Although many artists who focus on the landscape and wildlife don’t necessarily identify as political when it comes to environmental conservation, their influence and public reach in terms of awareness of wild spaces, and the importance of protecting them, is unquestionable. For those who are unable to visit, they bring back not only an artistic impression, but evoke emotions, capturing the essential spirit of these wild places.
Wise One - Susie Cippola - Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery
Sunset on Seton Lake - Mark Richards - Mark Richards Gallery