Abstraction exhibit a tribute to Wagensveld's legacy
Art Gallery of St. Albert celebrates late artist who passed last year
Wednesday, Sep 03, 2014 06:00 am
Works by Pat Wagensveld
Opening reception tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m. during the September ArtWalk
Exhibit runs until Saturday, Aug. 27
Art Gallery of St. Albert
19 Perron Street
Call 780-460-4310 or visit www.artgallerystalbert.com for more details.
How can anyone preview an upcoming exhibit by a late artist who was so beloved and so important to the community without letting emotions get the better of you? When I realized that I would not be including my usual phrase “the artist will be in attendance” in the Preview box attached to this article, a lump had already lodged itself firmly in my throat.
This city lost Pat Wagensveld late last year but the artist and arts ringleader with the Studio Gallery and Visual Arts Studio Association was prolific up until her last breath. A gorgeous selection of her body of work is now on display at the Art Gallery of St. Albert.
The exhibit, the final one of the summer ArtWalk calendar, was scheduled over a year ago, in May 2013. It consists of 24 significant paintings, exhibition curator Jenny Willson-McGrath said, suggesting that Pat’s health was never an issue for the show to go on as everything was in place.
“Pat passed away in December. Harry was still keen for the show to go forward and so were we. She was very, very organized. She had earmarked everything that was intended for the show.”
There will even be a set of five larger pieces that she had been working on in the last months of her life.
Harry chose to include one strong three-dimensional addition to complement the two-dozen two-dimensional works. There’s a wood sculpture that Pat created years ago that offers some insight into the artist and her creative process that he felt was necessary.
“I was looking at it and thought, ‘That’s the significant line.’ It represents the mountains and the forests of Alberta,” he said, before offering a personal anecdote.
“The night I met Pat was a Friday night. We had a good evening but we went our separate ways afterwards. I thought, ‘All I know about her is where she works. I’m going to go look her up at work.’ I went on the Monday and it turns out that she had taken her two youngest kids and left the country for good. She had moved back to England and was planning to live there the rest of her life.”
“Within a year, she decided that she had gotten homesick for Canada. They came back. She loved Canada. She missed the pine trees and everything else. She defined it as her Prairie roots.”
Local art aficionados will have undoubtedly seen her fondness for our northern landscapes through her Emma Lake series, or her sunflowers, or the Cave series, or the Colour of Time series. This exhibit is intended to provide something new from her while offering a fine retrospective of her oeuvre.
“I would say some of the landscapes are a little more representational than some of the types of pieces that Pat is known for,” Willson-McGrath explained. “There is definitely an abstracted element to all of the pieces, some very much so. Very much abstract expressionist in style. It’s all really, really great stuff.”
“There are the five big paintings that she did specifically for this show before she died, those last pieces she was working on. They’re all very different. The series was called ‘The Significant Line,’” Harry said, referring to her abstracted landscape works that feature the horizon line.
“These last five have what I initially called a crevasse in them. I was interpreting that as something negative before. It dawned on me later (as I was reading her CV and artist’s statement) that it represents her connection to the Prairies and her roots here.”
Willson-McGrath is hopeful that the exhibit will offer attendees a chance to remember the artist and appreciate her dedication to the arts, including the staff members of the gallery itself.
“It’s bittersweet. We have a really long history with Pat. She had really deep roots within our organization as well but then everyone here personally knew Pat as well.”
“I guess we’re honoured to be able to show this exhibition. I do anticipate that it is going to be quite emotional for a lot of community members and for us too. But again, it’s something that Pat had wanted. She had intended for these works to be exhibited here so it’s great that we can realize that.”