Grandeur of Emerald Isle, for 4 in 1 show
VASA offers Bere Island scenes opening today
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
Welcome to Bere Island
Works by Barbara Shore, Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon, Bella Totino and Verne Busby
Runs until Saturday, March 30
Opening reception from 1 to 4 p.m.
Artists will be in attendance.
VASA Studios & Gallery
25 Sir Winston Churchill Avenue (Peter Hemingway Centre)
Call 780-460-5990 or visit www.vasa.ca for more information.
Certainly there must be some luck to the timing of the new show at VASA Gallery, because it doesn’t seem like it was planned to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day. A small group of local painters travelled to a small island just off the coast of Ireland to compile the new show called Fáilte roimh tOileán Mór (subtitled Welcome to Bere Island).
Well, three of the four painters are local. The last is a member who actually resides at some distance.
Calgarian Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon was one of the group who created and attended the one-month artist residency back in the fall of 2012. She, along with Barb Shore, Bella Totino and Verne Busby, lived in an old stone cottage and set out on daily excursions to find any good vantage point in which to paint some compelling Irish plein air landscapes.
That is not hard at all, they all confirm.
“Everywhere you look, there is so much to see,” Totino remarked. “You can drive five minutes and it’s something else. Any direction … and you’ve got a scene.”
“It’s a very easy place to landscape paint,” Busby added. “You just keep turning.”
The island is just over half the size of Manhattan yet is inhabited by barely 200 people and 500 sheep. Those populations, however, are not the main draw.
Bere Island is just off the southwest coast of the mainland.
The region is steeped in history with standing stones, wedge tombs, centuries old forts and Martello Towers dotting the countryside. The land itself is comprised of rugged rolling hills and scratchy crags with sloping tails that lend themselves as perfect counterpoints to the gentle green hills and vales.
The images are certainly enough to make anyone long to visit the emerald isles. There is a lot of green, as one might expect in these mostly abstract impressionist works, with many jagged dark strokes for profound effect. As soft white sheep graze on the grass, it’s almost easy to ignore the obvious danger that they are standing at the edge of a cliff, a precipice leading many feet below to a rocky shore. The precarious beauty and beauty of life, all in one image.
Busby said the dramatic shapes were perfect for his purposes.
“As a landscape painter, you want to go someplace that’s different than what you’re used to, or somewhere unexpected,” he said.
The group experienced some grey skies, as many people might expect, but also enjoyed many fine, sunny days. Busby said that 26 days out of September were sunny, much better weather than they could have dreamed of. Of course, the weather changes quickly when you’re sitting on a rock in the ocean.
Busby and Shore both produced more than seven dozen pieces during their stay. To accommodate transportation of so many works back over the ocean and almost a full continent, Shore decided to use Yupo, a long synthetic plastic-like film that held the paint so that it could simply be rolled up like wrapping paper and carted off in a cardboard tube for protection.
Totino did the other sensible thing. She was only able to join the group near the end of the residency so her timeline was much shorter than the others. She focused on taking photos and setting up her easel back at home but she did some wood panels and Yupo works while she was there.
“To take canvases was impossible!” she exclaimed.
Still, it was well worth the effort and not just because of the extraordinary output. Shore said it was a major boon to her creativity.
“I’ve never sat and painted for a month and just immersed myself completely in it,” she confessed. “It was a thrill to be able to do that. I probably could have stayed a couple of weeks longer.”