The dynamics of creation represented in a current exhibition at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt will prompt recognition in anyone who has peered wonderingly through a microscope or telescope.
A trio of Vancouver-based artists contributed to the show, titled Reaching Further, Growing Closer. Dozens of patrons gathered at the gallery on April 21 to meet painters Mia Weinberg, Dzee Louise and Shary Bartlett.
London-born Weinberg, who has a background in industrial manufacturing, is known primarily for her large-scale installations and murals throughout the Lower Mainland. In 2016, she completed a commission that adorns the Burquitlam SkyTrain station.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Weinberg began to experiment with a collection of acrylic paints that she inherited from her late mother-in-law. Weinberg defined her own visual language, transforming existential crossroads (Soul, The Measuring of Time) into richly-hued abstracts. Some of her canvases, like Atmospheric River and The Rain Would Not Quit, plumb familiar climatic conditions for their metaphysical significance. Others are literally otherworldly: Perelandra depicts a landscape inspired by author C.S. Lewis’s science fiction stories.
Weinberg creates a digital scan of each of her paintings (she has completed more than 60 since the pandemic began). The large prints on display at the Sechelt exhibition are expanded reproductions of originals that are only eight inches square.
“It’s the microscopic and macroscopic that I’m fascinated with,” Weinberg said. “By enlarging them, I get to see all the things I put into the painting: sanding, rubbing, collage.”
For years, Weinberg and Dzee Louise had discussed the possibility of a collaborative exhibition. Louise’s work also reflects the organic world, exploring uncanny yet elemental patterns.
“When I’m painting I’m thinking about energy, and how it moves,” said Louise. “Energy leaves evidence of its travels through growth, paths, networks and traces. These patterns repeat in nature in roots and tree branches, veins in leaves, mountain ranges, nervous systems, and bacterial colonies.”
Impressions of the natural world abound in Louise’s work, in acrylic and watercolour paintings that look skyward (Weathered and Feathered) or inward (Guts). Repeated patterns — cosmic or intimate — are set in different environments through her use of unique colour palettes.
A tabletop tiled puzzle (Crossing) was created by Louise in collaboration with three microbiologists. Inky tendrils represent parallels between the synapses of the human brain and interfaces between gut bacteria. “We are in an environment and we are an environment,” said Louise. “We can’t separate ourselves from nature.”
Weinberg and Louise recognized similar themes in the work of mixed-media artist Shary Bartlett: respect for organic systems and sensitivity to the demands of unique mediums. They invited her to join them.
Through her career, Bartlett has raised the profile of encaustic art, which involves painting with an amalgam of molten beeswax and tree resin.
“It feels almost alchemical,” said Bartlett. “It’s like a combination of earth, with pigments and tree resin, and air, with the bees flying around and making the wax, and fusing it with fire, and fluid inks as well.”
The result, in canvases like Bursting Forth and Tangled Forest, is an array of images that reflect the exuberant randomness of life — as well as its finely-wrought intricacies. Bartlett describes herself as a catalyst. She relinquishes control and enables reactions between organic components.
“I think that’s something that pulls all of our work together,” Barlett reflected. “We all work with the push and pull, the conversation that happens with the materials that we use.”
Reaching Further, Growing Closer remains on display at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre until May 13. Gallery hours and details are available by browsing to sunshinecoastartscouncil.com.