Young P.A. artist’s talent showcased at gallery event

Brennan Cantin with paintings from his collection now on display at the John V. Hicks Gallery. Photo by Jessica Gies/Daily Herald.

Jessica Gies, Daily Herald Contributor

Paintings by an award-winning Prince Albert artist drew a crowd of dozens to his first solo exhibit on Saturday, where visitors viewed a collection of his best work.

Brennan Cantin, 18, was pleased that people took the time to attend his opening reception, held at the John V. Hicks Gallery inside the arts centre downtown. 

“It’s nice that people came,” Cantin said, taking a moment away from the boisterous crowd that had gathered at the gallery to admiring his work. He found it “very interesting and valuable” to have feedback from them about his art.

Cantin, who attended St. Mary High School until graduation last year, tends to gravitate towards natural realism, using oil paint as his main medium of artistic expression. A large part of his process has meant diligently studying how light affects colour on a canvas. His works is often inspired by photographs from family travels or objects found in his home.

Most of his gallery collection portrays light-hearted themes of family members laughing and relaxing, beautiful countryside scenes and children playing. However at least two paintings in his collection depict a burning house.

“A lot of people think of them and think they’re really psychological,” Cantin said. However, he was simply interested in painting smoke, he said, having been inspired by watching the sky during wildfire season.

Lana Wilson, curator of Cantin’s collection called Illuminating Moments, first met the young artist when he was still in grade school. Cantin was attending summer art camp, where Wilson worked as an educator for the Mann Art Gallery.

“His passion for art and his talent and skills were just unbelievable for a child of his age,” she said.

Wilson told how Cantin sculpted a rendition of the ancient Greek sculpture Discobolus.

“I was amazed that a child Brennan’s age would know that sculpture, but also be inspired to recreate it himself,” the curator said.

After he’d outgrown summer art camps, Wilson again met Cantin during the Mann Art Gallery high school juried art show.

“He was entering these incredible oil paintings,” she recalled, adding that his art appeared advanced for a high school student. Cantin won awards for his paintings in grades 11 and 12, with the accolades continuing from there. This year, he has won best oil painting at the Winter Festival art show and sale for a piece called Borghese Gardens, inspired by a family trip to Italy. Currently on display at the Mann Art Gallery, the painting depicts two people walking on a path.

“It’s incredible because you get a sense of the path receding into the distance, and the foliage on the trees, and the dappled sunlight, as the sun is shining through threes and illuminating the path,” Wilson said.

Artist Brennan Cantin’s painting of a burning house, part of a collection of his art that will remain on display at the John V. Hicks Gallery until March 23. Photo by Jessica Gies

Notably, Cantin was no longer competing against children for the show – the Winter Festival event takes submissions only from adults.

“He has absolutely made that transition,” Wilson said, adding that more than 130 entrants for the award.

Many of those at Saturday’s show were friends and family of Cantin, including his mother, Marga Cantin, whom Brennan credits for nurturing his talent.

Marga noticed that her son was artistically inclined from as early on as Kindergarten.

“He just stood out from an early age,” she said, adding that he’s always enjoyed painting, drawing and sculpting.

Though he is pursuing a career in engineering for work, Marga believes her son will continue painting as a way of expressing himself creatively.

‘I’m really proud of him,” she said. “I’m proud of how he’s grown as a person.”

“He doesn’t sit back and wait for things to happen to him,” she added. “That makes me proud.”

Cantin’s collection will remain on display at the John V. Hicks Gallery inside the Margo Fournier Arts Centre until March 23 for anyone who would like the opportunity to view the exhibition. His award-winning painting, which is part of the Winter Festival, will remain at the Mann Art Gallery until March 23 as well.