Bridges are for exploring, crossing, burning and describe beauty, relationships, struggles. They can represent choices and directions both wise and unwise and necessary. I have experienced bridges, both physical and contemplative in my art practice.
Over the years, I have selected bridges as a painting image and have sold paintings of the bridges that provide access to our beautiful Saskatchewan valleys, both in Saskatoon and elsewhere in the province. Bridges also provide viewing places for looking into water which has been another of my long term muses. In the Artists’ Workshop April 2019 show I will include a painting that originated on a lovely day last fall when I walked the trails at Wanuskewin Park, stood by a bridge at Opimihaw Creek, took photos for painting reference and reflected on the cultural significance of that particular bridge.
A big bridge in my career as an artist presented itself following a dramatic vision change several years ago. It was suddenly necessary for me to find new creative and physical bridges between the paint and the canvas. This uprooting resulted in a lot of experimentation in my application of paint and has remained a focus in my work.
When Artists’ Workshop selected Bridging as a theme for our annual spring show, I had been working on a series of pathways that started in the forest at my cabin last summer and finished in my studio over the winter. As a friend recently said, “A bridge is a path”.
We will look forward to seeing folks at our show April 12, 13.14 at Grace Westminster Church Hall. Enjoy the art and chat with the artists about the interesting paths they follow and the bridges they cross in the search for creative expression and beauty.
‘On a Dreamer’s Path All is Possible’
‘Life is a Maze’
A few ways I see bridging in my art practice are:
- Time and Place – Recently I have been focussed on a series of work called Prairie Perspectives that bridges time and place. Across the Saskatchewan landscape homesteads are deserted, granaries sit empty and elevators are rapidly disappearing. This exhibition explores what we see today and invites us to be curious about the many perspectives surrounding the history of this prairie architecture.
- Memories – As I talk to people who come to view my exhibitions I hear stories such as “I taught the grandchildren of the people who built that house” or “my Dad was a station master so that brings back a lot of memories”. Those conversations bridge my making of the art with the viewers’ response to it.
- Learning – Discover Watercolour Batik is an online class I created to help bridge the learning of other artists who want to learn about my process and how to work with wax and watercolour on Ginwahsi paper. (learn.paigemortensen.ca)
- Actual Bridges – And finally, bridges frequently appear in my work. Many bridges, especially the older ones are fascinating architectural structures.
One afternoon a few years ago the phone rang and a voice at the other end said “You don’t know me but I just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying one of your paintings.”. The man told me his name and where he was from. We’d never met. He didn’t own any of my artwork. He explained that he lived in Saskatchewan, a few hours drive away from Saskatoon, and that his wife was having surgery as we spoke. I had hung some of my art in Saskatoon’s City Hospital and he was calling from the pay phone located where the artwork hung. He was sitting there looking at it while he waited, while we talked, he told me. He said the piece reminded him of home and how much he and his wife love the peaceful qualities of where they had chosen to live. I had painted the scene because it had touched something in me. And it had, as he explained, touched something in him too. There’s no punchline to this story where the caller turns out to be someone famous or had made a generous purchase.
A bridge between the visual artist and the one appreciating the work, exists merely by the viewer appreciating it. Most times the people at either end of this bridge don’t meet in the middle in any direct way. Many eyes view a displayed work of art. Many people will walk away thinking about what the work reminded them of, or harbouring the emotion that the image instilled in them. The bridge exists even if the feeling invoked remains unexpressed. I’ll always remember the phone call.
It took me a while to see where the idea of bridging fit with my art. And then it came to me as I was working on a new painting, of a subject completely new to me. This subject presented itself to me because of new directions my life has been taking over the past year. A major life change presented an opportunity to realize something I’d often thought of, the chance to live back on the west coast. So I rented an apartment for a year to start with and have been going back and forth over the winter.
I grew up out there but have been away almost 50 years, so it has been a rediscovery of the old and the new. Seeing it from the viewpoint of art making is also new, and I have been inspired by the new/old landscape of the coast. Exploring new subjects which have caught my attention has renewed my imagination and exploration.
As part of these new changes, you will notice that I have also gone back to my original name of McGrath. So my way of seeing as a painter, a moving those visions to painting has been the bridge between my past life and the life I am now making for myself. The amazing support and love of my dear friends and family has made this transition possible and I am so grateful for them. So onward!
As a post script, the new subject I was working on is the painting here of the heron. I’ve not done any kind of animal or bird before, particularly in a landscape, and I have been quite pleased with my first attempt.
Marilyn’s work bridges the landscapes of Saskatchewan, from flowers in her back yard, to the alleyways of the city, to the boreal forest. The link between them are the reds and magentas that underpin much of Marilyn’s paintings. Marilyn sketches and takes photos to use as the foundation for her striking paintings.
My work has always centred around the natural world … art has always been an outlet to my awe of nature and the wonder of the natural living world around me. I have always sought to imbue that sense of wonderment and spirit into the scenes that evolve under my brush. To bridge if you will, the energy and cycle of life to the paper I commit my work to…
In the last while my work has been shaped by commissions; clients looking to capture the life energy and presence of their animal companions in a picture. In these works I strive to bridge that character and presence, to bring life into the forms I create. As I have been working on these, I find time slips into timeliness….minutes slip into hours….and I have become caught up in the energy of these beautiful subjects. Looking back I find that my effort has been to breathe life into my subjects, be they whimsical florals, cheeky chickadees or simply the waves of fronds of grass on the prairies. With subjects full of life, I look to bridge their energy and presence into that of the beholder. To share my sense of wonderment of all that is life….
Do you see what I see?
Bridging – Do you see what I see?
Hmmmm, probably not! I see the world in a unique Sharron way. Some see a sky that isn’t blue, and a sun that doesn’t shine as a gray and gloomy scene. I see a mauve, blue-violet and silver sky, backlit trees and buildings edged in bright highlights. Some see the shoreline as water, trees and rocks and more water, trees and rocks. I see soft, lazy ripples of water, golden backlit trees and sunbathed dappled rocks as my canoe meanders and passes by. The next dip of my oar will change the scene again into something new and unexpected.
My paintings are a reaction to what I see and feel about nature, places and people. I have a desire to connect and recreate these things through my art.