CAP­TUR­ING THE SPIRIT OF THE WILD

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - CONTENT - STORY BY RE­BECCA WOOD BAR­RETT

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

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