Categories: Entertainment

Abstracts don’t subtract from wondrous landscapes

The wonder of the retreat at Emma Lake, Sask. has not been lost on many local artists who’ve gone for the fine scenery and learned teachers. Often they come back with a renewed vigour for their work, anxious anticipation of getting back in the studio, or fresh outlooks on techniques. Sometimes they return with a simple sense of peace that can only occur after a few weeks of clean air and cellphone avoidance.

Some, like Shirley Cordes-Rogozinsky, come back with a carload of paintings.

“My car was so full. I actually made a wooden rack and took 10 canvases with me. I had to play with the way the seat was shaped – the hollow in the seat – to make it fit in,” she laughed.

“I hardly had room for a suitcase. It was shoved into the passenger side on the floor. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t have a flat tire on the way.”

The painter has had a busy summer. Normally, she devotes some of the warm months to gardening and pottery but this year she was driven to complete work for this show at Art Beat, her first since the gallery changed hands to Brigitte Strand last year.

To celebrate the occasion, Cordes-Rogozinsky is bringing in a batch of big pieces, not all of which are in her favourite medium of oil.

“I’ve expanded,” she explained, saying that she has branched out to include acrylics, even delving into mixed media works.

All of this was because of an important trip to her home province a few years ago: the famous Emma Lake site of the University of Saskatchewan’s Kenderdine campus.

“The layering process is really important in my work. With oil it takes so long to dry for me to put another layer on the top. I might work on three at a time but still … I don’t really want to be working on six at a time. There were multiple layers that I could accomplish in a day there, instead of waiting. That was such a treat for me.”

The trip offered more than just inspirational scenery and studio space open 24 hours a day. She went for the guest instructor.

“Actually we had no instruction. It depends on who the guest artist is. At this time, it was one of my favourite artists: David Alexander. I did not want to miss that opportunity to be even in his presence while he’s painting so we could observe how he’s working.”

Alexander is the British Columbia-based painter who doesn’t so much focus on details as he does colours, brushstrokes and broad swoops of feeling. Some of his landscapes are frankly reminiscent of trays of melting candies or stained glass windows where the segments aren’t bordered and so they bleed into each other. They still have the understanding of landscape, however, as the viewer can still identify the subject of the picture.

Interestingly, Emma Lake was formative in Alexander’s own early career, giving him a launching point before furthering his academic fine arts studies.

As Cordes-Rogozinsky was watching him work, she admits that she was also watching the water. The self-avowed small town prairie girl was mesmerized with the beauty and the physics all working together in fluid harmony.

Her work is also abstract landscape but veers away from Alexander’s oeuvre with far more room for interpretation. Veins of red run through her waterscapes, leaving some works with a stronger resemblance to scenes of the galaxy than the lake that she was looking at. Others have fairly representational circles of raindrops as they echo away in little wavelets. The viewer is still left with the moment of inspection and introspection.

“Water’s always been influential in my paintings,” she said.

That’s an understatement when it comes to her current body of work. Yes, water plays a central role as her main subject, but then she uses water-based acrylics, even grabbing the large canvases by the sides and rolling the paint around to enhance the liquidity of everything.

Elsewhere, vast stretches and splotches of yellows and blues don’t necessarily take the mind to a lake, or a landscape, as a dreamscape. She paints from her imagination and imagination is also exactly what the viewer needs to appreciate it fully.

“I think because it’s not 100 per cent abstraction that people often still see something in it,” she said. “I really enjoy when they tell me what they’re visualizing. I think it’s more important what the viewer gets from it.”


Paintings by Shirley Cordes-Rogozinsky
Opening reception tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m.
Wine and appetizers will be served.
Artist will be in attendance.

Art Beat Gallery
26 St. Anne Street
Call 780-459-3679 or visit www.artbeat.ab.ca for more information.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.