The outside has come inside at the Mann Art Gallery, with simultaneous displays from several artists who draw their inspiration from nature albeit in different ways.
For Ken Van Rees, it was walking through a burnt patch of forest near South End (Reindeer Lake) that caused him to wonder what he could do with charcoal and canvas.
“As I was walking through the forest, I looked down at my pants, they were light-coloured, and there were all these charcoal markings on them,” said Van Rees during a reception held by the gallery on Nov. 26. “I thought, oh, maybe I could do something with this and this started this long journey of creating art from burnt forest.”
Van Rees allows the forest, wind and time to do some of the work for him. He puts a canvas down in a chosen spot, puts a burned log on top and then comes back days, weeks or months later to see what has happened.
He has also set up a game camera and was interested to see the wildlife that stopped and took a sniff or walked on the canvas.
“There were all these animals looking at my artwork. There were deer, there were bears walking across my artwork. There were wolves walking around,” Van Rees said.
Where most people avoid burned areas of nature and look for lush, green landscape, the fiery side of nature has a more visual appeal for him.
“Most of us prefer a green forest. That’s what we like to go camping in or hiking in. For me, because I worked on forest fires when I was a teenager and I had that first experience with forest fires, it somehow resonated with me,” he said.
Van Rees’ art can be found at the Mann Art Gallery until January 15 and is an accompaniment to the work of well known artist Greg Hardy.
In contrast to the more muted colours in Van Rees’ work, Hardy’s in some cases has bursts of orange and other bright colours.
“This is a show of drawings from the La Ronge area, where I have a cabin up on an island,” said Hardy.
About four years ago, Hardy was talking to the then director of the Mann gallery and agreed to a showing of his drawings.
With changes in staff at the gallery and the pandemic, it took time for the exhibition to come together, but it is now displayed.
Some of the drawings were done decades ago and some are more recent but the focus on the natural world is shared with Van Rees.
“I have an affinity for the natural world and I paint a lot of things, but I always come back to its landscape that moves me the most as subject matter,” said Hardy.
Hardy’s career has been established for some time and he makes it his full time occupation, sharing his time between La Ronge and his main studio near Saskatoon.
“Realistically, this is a small sampling of the drawings that I have because I draw all the time,” Hardy explained. “It’s primarily the landscape,” he said of his decision to work in northern Saskatchewan. “We used to go up further north and do a lot of canoe trips and it had always been a dream or a hope to have a wilderness cabin at some point.”
An architect from Prince Albert had the cabin available for sale and so Hardy was able to buy it.
“As soon as I saw it, I was just like this is amazing,” he said. “The subject matter was all around and I knew it was going to be very positive.”
Hardy paints or draws where ever he is, and mainly draws inspiration from the plains before focusing on the forest.
“This was like a 15 year concentration on Lac La Ronge and it still feels like a positive source of inspiration,” he said. “But having said that, I’m shifting gears and going to go back to the plains.”
He looks for good quality light when he paints and also looks for energy.
“The more dramatic the landscape the better. I feel more in tune with what’s going on if there’s a storm or a pending storm,” Hardy explained.
“And I’ve always been taken with the sky, since I was a little kid.”
A third display is up at the gallery for the duration of the exhibition featuring Hardy along with Van Rees.
Title ‘The Secret is in the Paper’, the collection was curated by collections assistant Breanne Bandur and is focused on different approaches to the treatment of paper.