Friday, 3 August 2012
Illuminé, an exhibit of encaustic works by Linda Girard
It was my first chance to look at encaustic art in the flesh, as it were, and I was very pleased. I've been aware that a growing number of visual artists have been exploring this medium, but I've never had a chance until now to examine it up close.
The encaustic technique involves heating beeswax, adding pigment, and then applying it to the surface of the work while experimenting with layering, texturing, and marking. I would have thought, not knowing any better, that this would be a rather transient, impermanent medium, but I've learned that there are early Christian iconic encaustic works still extant that date back to the sixth century, and much older examples produced by the Egyptians that may be seen in the British Museum. Obviously, a visual artist choosing encaustic as a medium can produce works for the ages, as opposed to the moment.
Illuminé is the result of almost two years' work by Ms. Girard and consists of thirty-seven works in total. Her overriding theme is an exploration of place, and I must admit my personal favourites were her earliest encaustics in the show, the "South Branch River Series," which were inspired by the Oxford Mills area, not far from where I live. These four paintings were framed in natural, unfinished wood, and seemed to jump off the wall at me, especially "Barnes Creek, South Branch River," for which she has received an Honourable Mention from the Marianne Silfhout Gallery.
Also remarkable are the "Old Florida Series," inspired by her time spent in the Sarasota area, one of which is reproduced in the exhibit poster, above.
As I was leaving, though, I was stopped dead in my tracks outside the library by her tribute to Gwendolyn MacEwan, which I had missed on the way into the building. It was displayed by itself, around the corner from the gallery proper, and I might have walked right past it again, but I felt a sudden pull from a magnetic pair of eyes, looked at the glass display case, and stopped short. I've always felt drawn to the late Ms. MacEwan's poetry, an excellent example of which is "Dark Pines Under Water," from The Shadow-Maker (Toronto: Macmillan, 1972), which begins:
This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
I took my time studying Ms. Girard's tribute to this under-appreciated Canadian poet. She had, in her own words, focused on MacEwan's "haunting Egyptian like kohl eyes and tiny pursed lips [and] frankly intelligent gaze." I've seen a copy of this piece online before but to see it in person was something else again.
If you live in the Ottawa area, I urge you to visit the Centrepoint Theatre Gallery this month and experience this exhibit for yourself. It's definitely worth your while.
All other lovers of fine art can visit Linda Girard's blog at http://girardportfolio.blogspot.ca/, where she has posted most of the works included in the show. Take the time to explore her blog, which will give you an excellent feel for her work and her vision. And for goodness sakes, don't miss the post featuring the MacEwan encaustic, as I almost did!