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Trio of artists shape unexpected harmonies at GPAG

Subtle connections between the works of three artists now featured at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery materialized only once the exhibits were arrayed on the walls.
Neil McClelland, Natalie Robinson and Donna Goulette are exhibiting new works at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until May 28.

Subtle connections between the works of three artists now featured at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery materialized only once the exhibits were arrayed on the walls. 

It was gallery manager Christina Symons who initially recommended the conjunction of exhibitions by painters Neil McClelland and Natalie Robinson and fibre artist Donna Goulette. Symons observed a link between Robinson’s abstract geometric studies and Goulette’s patterned threads, woven through paper. 

During the show’s opening reception on May 6, observers also noticed a common theme between McClelland’s supernal depictions of a childhood cottage and Robinson’s architectural contours: both give shape to the sense of home and belonging. 

In McClelland’s series Bright Black Starry Sunny Night, large-scale oil canvases depict the confluence of earth and sky through impressionistic renderings of Quebec’s Gatineau Hills. 

“A lot of these paintings are a sort of an amalgamation of different kinds of photographs that I’ve taken over the years,” McClelland said. The cottage he portrays has been a gathering place for his family over generations.  

“There’s a lot of symbolism involved,” he explained, “and a lot of this feeling of motion of being in the place. My earliest memories are of being on that dark farm in the night and the kind of magic of childhood.” 

For McClelland, who teaches at both the University of Victoria and the Vancouver Island School of Art, nature’s dynamism is something he tries to replicate in the studio. He moves energetically while painting, quickly outlining dominant motifs before fine-tuning details. The result, as in canvases like Spreading the Fragrance of Grass, is imagery with seductive potency. His works convey the illusion of rushing toward the subject matter, inexorably drawn by the gravity of emotion. 

Like McClelland, Natalie Robinson is exhibiting for the first time on the Sunshine Coast with her series Room in Frame. She begins by using computer software to rough out abstract designs, then renders them in oils, acrylics, and meticulously glued painterly collage. The architectural allusions are intentional — Robinson is inspired by the design of houses in her Burnaby hometown. 

“A lot of it came out of the pandemic,” Robinson said, “being stuck in the same environment for a while. Recognizing my frustration at that overfamiliar environment, I wanted to push it and distort it and make it interesting again.” 

Homely references are sometimes overtly tender (as in A deck built by Dad [close enough]) and other times endearingly enigmatic — as in Robinson’s Obstruction series. The constrictions and freedoms of suburban life find easy balance. 

Robinson’s abstracts are echoed in fibre works by Sunshine Coast textile artist Goulette. In Embroidery on Paper, Goulette forgoes traditional cloth substrates and weaves thread through a more unforgiving medium.  

“There are so many limitations to working on paper,” said Goulette. The patterns of Linework and her Mind the Gap series in particular reflect their genesis in complex geometries sketched on graph paper. Goulette then punctures the surface to thread vibrant threads. In Calm, she used metallic thread, imbuing the work with seraphic shimmer. Botanical elements appear to salubrious effect, as in Restorative Flora and Stirred by Nature. 

Goulette has shown her work previously on the Sunshine Coast as part of Fibreworks group exhibitions in Madeira Park, where she has also offered instruction in creating felted animals and painting with wool. 

Exhibitions by McClelland, Robinson and Goulette remain on display at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until May 28. Browse to for details.