The harmony between three simultaneous exhibitions at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery surprised even the artists themselves.
Before meeting to install their respective works, David Evanson of Gibsons — whose charismatic sculptures are featured in New Life from Old Wood — had viewed paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki on her website. He assumed the Port Moody-based artist would display a selection of her abstracts.
Instead, the canvases of Mirkov-Popovicki’s Coastal Sentinels series depict in dazzling tones the very coastal forests that gave rise to Evanson’s raw materials.
Paintings and prints by Sechelt’s Leonard Brett, in Short Bear Tales, populate the gallery landscape with beguiling depictions of the ursine family.
The three artists gathered at a crowded public reception on Aug. 5 to launch the tripartite show.
Evanson’s fir and cedar substrates are claimed from a local dryland log sort, often from timber destined for the hog fuel chipper. He seasons the wood for up to a year before using its grain and form to guide his carving. The lithe abstracts imply animation, with graceful curves that hint at fins, wings or outstretched arms. The ovoid eyes of Mask, carved from alder, form a mythological parallel with the oculus in Slinky, shaped from red cedar.
“I give a nod to First Nations and their deep connection to red cedar,” said Evanson, who began carving 15 years ago and has studied under Nisga’a and Ts’msyen master artists. “And interestingly, it’s central to me. It’s what feeds my heart. I have a great love affair with cedar. Without cedar I wouldn’t be carving: the smell of it, the touch and feel, everything.”
Fittingly, Brett’s array of works uses woodblock prints — plus etchings, gouache, watercolours and oil paintings – to illustrate bear stories born of legends and anecdotes.
“What’s important to my creative process is trying to find new forms,” said Brett. “My work isn’t realistic; I’m constantly trying to create something that’s unique or different or my own.”
Brett’s bears — whether in domestic settings like Bear Picking Pears or the fantastic poses depicted in Dancing Bears — are surrounded by textured landscapes formed of infinitesimal parts. In Invisible Bears, the flashlight of a beleaguered camper beams a fine-lined starburst illuminating a nocturnal visitor’s claws. In Battling Bears, the combatants’ fur is formed of prismatic fragments, like Tiffany lampshades locked in bare-toothed battle.
At the reception, local poets Heidi Greco and Marion Quednau read bear-themed verse from their own collections, as well as an excerpt from Brett’s forthcoming book of poetry and art (also to be titled Short Bear Tales).
In Coastal Sentinels, landscapes by Mirkov-Popovicki depict the intimate relationship between foreshore foliage and Pacific waters. Her views of isolated coves are framed by gnarled arbutus branches, backed by battalions of evergreens, and suffused with golden sunlight.
Mirkov-Popovicki, who moved from Yugoslavia in 1994, described how her artistic perspective changed upon settling in Canada. “The first time my husband and I went to a park,” she recalled, “we couldn’t understand where the park was, because it was just so big. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. You kind of have to get a visual language and when you don’t have that visual language, it’s very confusing. It took me quite a few years to understand and absorb things [on Canada’s West Coast].”
Mirkov-Popovicki collects reference material during field visits to ancestral Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth homelands. In her studio, she transforms her impressions into deeply-layered landscapes, punctuated by tidepools and turf-tonsured boulders, as in Arbutus Embrace, where russet branches reach to caress the sea.
For Mirkov-Popovicki, who is exhibiting on the Sunshine Coast for the first time, upcoming university Master’s studies will help her fuse creative writing, memories and art. “Each of us has a story to tell,” she said, “and stories nobody else can tell. That’s going to be the focus.”
Works by Evanson, Brett and Mirkov-Popovicki are on display at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until Aug. 27. Browse to gpag.ca for more information.