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Westcoast Figurative: Human form on show

Art Exhibit

The idea of organizing and curating a figurative show at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery (GPAG) has long been an interest for Gibsons artist Paula O’Brien. The drawing or painting of the human form, clothed or not, is the foundation of artistic training, and O’Brien, who works mostly in oils, likes to paint richly-costumed models such as dancers.

She started a website a few years ago – – that gathers images of contemporary figure art in drawing, painting, ceramics, textiles and sculpture. At first she had to invite artists to show their work on the website, but soon she was receiving submissions and posting examples from artists around the world. The site now shows 1,000 artists who exhibit an exciting range of professional work.

The GPAG show is called Westcoast Figurative – Seven Painters of the Human Form, and it features seven artists with a strong interest in figurative art who capture the human condition in their own unique and distinct personal styles. The variations are enormous of the many ways that seven people can view the human form. 

O’Brien met Vancouver artists Andrea Armstrong and Maria-Margaretta when she attended the East Side Culture Crawl in Vancouver.

“Their work attracted me,” she said, and she invited them on to her website. Armstrong’s works combine traditional portraiture and whimsical illustration while Emily Carr final year student Maria-Margaretta’s oils on frosted Mylar deliver raw and focused emotion. Vancouver artist Jay Senetchko is no stranger to the Sunshine Coast – many have seen his work in the past at Goldmoss Gallery in Roberts Creek. He exhibits studies that reflect the parallels between different historical periods and contemporary life.

Justin Ogilvie has taught at the Gibsons School of the Arts. His large-scale works incorporate techniques that add and subtract to construct figures and articulate time. Are the figures emerging from their abstract origins or are they returning to the ground from which they came? Ogilvie will give a live oil portrait painting demo and slideshow Sunday, Jan. 15 from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

Jennifer Goodwin of Sechelt is a newcomer to the Coast. She was discovered by O’Brien at the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl. She portrays big images of dolls and her work has great presence, said O’Brien. Gibsons artist Cindy Riach’s oil portraits painted from life capture local characters.

Snow Queen and Her Cavalier by artist and curator Paula O’Brien.

O’Brien’s own colourful paintings reflect a love of costume and performance. Interesting cropping reveals candid moments – the process of performers becoming their roles and living them, generating energy and taking energy from their audience. She is noted for some of her behind-the-curtain depictions of young dancers from The Nutcracker and other dance groups. She might also show paintings based on a trip to Valencia in Spain where she watched an Easter festival of fast-paced, costumed participants, while snapping many photos that would lead to paintings.

Westcoast Figurative will be her second curated figurative art exhibition at GPAG. The first was Figures on the Coast in 2013; the only returning artists from the 12 included in that show are Riach and O’Brien. “I wanted to change it up and invite Vancouver artists, giving the GPAG audience a larger variety and experience,” she said.

Hollis Wealth generously sponsors this exhibition. Westcoast Figurative – Seven Painters of the Human Form opens on Jan. 12 at GPAG and runs to Feb. 5 with an opening reception on Saturday, Jan. 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. All are invited.