Environmental Music: Laura Culic, Dan Ryan, Carol Westcott
August 24 - September 24, 2010
Ontario is blessed with a substantial history and a venerable tradition in landscape painting. It would hardly seem possible that this history—writ so large by the likes of Thomson, MacDonald, Lismer and others—could have room for reinterpretation or even exploration by artists working in the 21st century. A sky, a tree, a body of water, how many times can these sometimes iconic elements be reinvented, reconfigured, and redrawn?
Environmental Music brings together the work of three contemporary landscape artists. All are Toronto-based painters who look to the land for their primary inspiration. Laura Culic, Dan Ryan and Carol Westcott have each been painting professionally for over ten years. While they all draw on similar subject matter however, each has a distinctive and very personal response to it.
Laura Culic’s work dwells, like the 19th century Impressionists, on the fleeting effects of time on the landscape. Big skies, shifting clouds and the inevitably long, low sweep of the horizon figure prominently in her work. Layers of wax, oil paint and alkyd mediums are employed to represent nature’s ongoing transience. Seemingly serene and non threatening, these works nevertheless remind us of our vulnerability and insignificance before nature.
Dan Ryan meanwhile uses his working method and his materials to expose and reinforce nature’s power. He scrapes, pulls and forces the paint across the panel to infuse his work with the same energy he frequently encounters in the natural world. As well, like Culic, he appreciates the big skies of Ontario’s northland but is also captivated by forms encountered at close range that he can translate into a language both familiar and intimate.
In Carol Westcott’s work the artist’s astute observations in the field have culminated in a reality re-imagined on the canvas. The subject matter, rendered at close hand, has been so personally re-appraised so as to travel far beyond its original inspiration. Manipulating form and colour to near abstraction, Westcott produces imagery that is at once both convincing and original.
While all three artists can interpret a landscape’s formal elements, it is the ability to create the atmosphere inherent in the landscape that elevates the quality of these works. This is an atmosphere so palpable that we can imagine ourselves not only outside of the scene but within it as well. Often distanced from and oblivious to the nuances of change being wrought in the natural environment, we are reminded in these paintings of its power and its sway over us.