The Men Who Paint are normally busy travelling across the country, and even around the world, putting their unique visions of landscapes on to canvases. This summer, however, they’ve returned to their roots in Prince Albert National Park.
The group consists of Greg Hargarten, Cam Forrester, Paul Trottier, Roger Trottier and Ken Van Rees. The five men originally met in 2007 at the now shuttered Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus, an offshoot of the University of Saskatchewan.
Last October, Brent Hammel and Carla Flaman of the Black Spruce Gallery in Waskesiu invited them to paint in the park last month. Now, those pieces will be on display in the gallery as part of the Boreal Landscapes exhibit.
“As it turns out, we couldn’t have gone anywhere else, really, or it would have been difficult to go elsewhere,” said Hargarten about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The timing just could not have been better.”
The exhibit starts on July 25 and will run for the rest of the summer. Hargarten said the artists will be at the gallery opening weekend to meet with visitors and discuss their work.
Restrictions will be in place, he said, such as limiting the amount of people in the gallery at one time.
“We’ve painted in that park in the last maybe five years, but always in the winter, so it’s been a very long time since we’ve painted in the park in the summer and it was a real treat to be back,” he said.
Their travels extend well beyond Saskatchewan to Germany, British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii archipelago, Alberta’s Banff National Park, Ontario’s Algonquin Park, Nunavut’s Ellesmere Island and Yukon’s Ivvavik National Park.
“It’s interesting when you travel across Canada. Any time you enter the Canadian shield area, which sort of is further north in the west and moves across and hits further south in the east, the landscapes are very similar,” explained Hargarten.
“When we painted in Georgian Bay in Ontario, it’s very similar to, say, La Ronge or even the northern lakes that are in Prince Albert National Park like Crean or Kingsmere.”
Boreal Landscapes will be the Men Who Paint’s first physical art show since the beginning of the pandemic. They typically host yearly shows in Saskatoon and Regina, with the opening receptions drawing hundreds.
They’re still not sure how they’ll manage those events come fall. However, now that the province is allowing limited gatherings, they can still host exhibits in smaller communities.
“Earlier in the year, we were really unclear as to how to accomplish that,” said Hargarten.
“You can’t just stop doing what it is that you do. You have to figure out a solution.”
Painting is really the only common interest among the group, he said. They all have different backgrounds. Roger Trottier is a teacher, Van Rees is a university professor, Forrester is a golfer and Hargarten is a musician and graphic designer.
But, thanks to workshops at the Kenderdine campus, they became friends, collaborating through their art. As a group, they only paint landscapes, but they all have different styles.
Hargarten said they’ve likely influenced each other since the group formed over a decade ago.
“It’s interesting when people come to the show or to the exhibitions, they find that we might be sitting side-by-side and painting the same scene and when you look at the paintings, you can sort of see that, but the treatment of them will be completely different because it’s influenced by each of our styles,” he said.
The Men Who Paint’s work is held in galleries across Canada and abroad. This includes The Parks Canada Permanent Collection, The Kunstmuseum in Schwaan, Germany, OstseeSparkasse Rostock Permanent Collection, Ronald McDonald House Permanent Collection, Blue Cross Permanent Collection and The Mann Gallery in Prince Albert.
“It’s been a real journey for us,” said Hargarten.
“But the boreal forest of northern Saskatchewan will always hold a special place in our hearts.”