A longstanding artist cooperative will draw to a close at the end of this month, as four members of the Landing Artists bid farewell to the influential movement through a poignant showcase of distinctive works.
The group was originally formed as the Sunshine Coast Artists Co-op in 1997. Its membership, which rose to nearly 40, was headquartered in a gallery on Marine Drive in Lower Gibsons.
“Nearly every one of those members has gone on to become a very well-known artist here in the community and continues to produce beautiful art,” said painter Ruth Rodgers. Members included sculptor Jack Harman, who designed the equestrian statue of Queen Elizabeth II on Parliament Hill. Paintings by former member Patricia Richardson Logie were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.
Rodgers joined the organization shortly before the Landing Artists decided to close its gallery in 2016. “It was no longer feasible to have a bricks and mortar space,” explained Rodgers.
The group continued to work together by organizing pop-up shows and coordinating joint marketing initiatives. In August, the Landing Artists held a show at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden before disbanding officially. A number of its members had retired from commercial art.
Four stalwarts — Rodgers, Charmaine Bayntun, Coralie Swaney and Ed Hill — seized an opportunity to reunite for a curtain call. A selection of their works went on display at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery on Nov. 2.
“The four of us have worked together for a long time,” said Rodgers. “We are close friends. It was easy for us to put this together and a delight to work with the gallery.” Rodgers’s watercolours use vivid colour palettes and subtle geometries to depict tranquil landscapes.
Hill and Swaney were original members of the cooperative. Hill, who pairs his lithographs and giclée prints with autobiographical narratives, encouraged others in the group to write stories to accompany their pieces.
When Bayntun initially exhibited her acrylics during the annual Art Crawl, she bemoaned the brevity of touring participants’ visits. Many were simply seeking a stamp as part of a short-lived passport promotion. “They didn’t even look at my paintings,” she said. “But the big learn I’ve had with the [Landing Artists] group was Ed telling people to write stories to go with their paintings. And now some of the feedback I’ve heard is, ‘I can see what you were looking at,’ or ‘I can see it through your eyes.’”
“Art doesn’t live in visual isolation, and every artist brings so much more to it than what you see,” added Swaney. “Sharing the embellished aspect of the art really helps people understand where you’re coming from and helps the appreciation.”
Swaney’s whimsical sculptures (including the three mythic dwarf-kings on display) are accompanied by detailed biographies of the characters. Her acrylic rooster portrait (Gregory Peck, Leading Man) is accentuated by a short-written sketch.
Over the years. projects grew organically within the Landing Artists community. Rodgers engaged Bayntun to paint the covers of her first three novels. Members donated pieces to Sunshine Coast fundraising auctions. The entire group contributed suggestions when repainting the original gallery.
“It wasn’t always smooth sailing,” said Swaney. “Just try getting 40 artists together to choose colours. That was fun and interesting.”
The final foursome plan to leave the door open for a future revival of the Landing Artists. “I hope we somehow stay together, even if it’s by a gossamer or a filament,” said Bayntun.
Works by Rodgers, Bayntun, Swaney and Hill are on display at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until Nov. 26.