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Going beyond the paintbrush

Samantha Williams-Chapelsky abstract paintings now on display at Art Gallery of St. Albert step away from traditional tools.
Looking For Alice, a Samantha Williams-Chapelsky abstract, is on display as Art Gallery of St. Albert as part of a 13 piece collection titled Time and Terrain - Connecting to Land and Sky. SUPPLIED

Visual artist Samantha Williams-Chapelsky experiments boldly with unconventional tools to paint her sweeping abstract works. 

She slathers gobs of acrylic paint onto a sturdy birch backing and shapes her design with blue-collar tools – a trowel, acid wash brooms, dustpan brooms and bath scrubbers. The results are breezy, majestic landscapes where land and sky meet.  

Her 13-piece textural collection, now on display at Art Gallery of St. Albert is titled Time and Terrain – Connecting to Land and Sky. Each painting is memory from places she's visited. At the core of every work is her emotional connection to the landscape. In creating an abstract representation, she hopes the paintings will stir viewers’ private memories of their links to nature. 

“They’re supposed to bring something special for you. If they can energize something in you, that’s what art is about,” said Williams-Chapelsky. The former St. Albert resident’s first exhibition at the art gallery was Duality in 2011. 

A talented graduate from Archbishop MacDonald High School, she was awarded two scholarships: one for engineering and one for design. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Alberta in 2009. 

Since her university days, Williams-Chapelsky style has become looser, more abstract. 

“It changed for many reasons. I had influential artists help me, especially female artists who pursued abstract work. If left to my own resources, I would have stayed stuck in mountain land.” 

One of her inspirations was American painter Alice Neel, a pioneer known for her expressionistic portraits of friends, family and lovers. In a nod to Neel, one of Williams-Chapelsky's paintings is titled Looking For Alice

“Alice Neel was a portrait artist. She really captured celebrated portraits in her own way. I capture prairie landscapes we see every day and seem relatively mundane. Yet even mundane space has so much drama to it. I’ve always been fascinated by how clouds and land meet.” 

The artist admittedly describes herself as a “solo person,” one who has no trouble spending hours outdoors in nature.  

In I See the Wind, the painting was adapted from a mountain excursion where a cloud appears to ride the wind like a bucking bronc. 

“These pathways in the mountains are their own world. I’m awestruck how they are unlike anything else in the world.” 

My Emotional Heart was depicted after a visit to Spain that included a tour of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Instead of a mountain's cool colours, this painting is repackaged with the Mediterranean country’s colour and warmth. 

Through the past 15 years, Williams-Chapelsky has garnered numerous accolades. One of her paintings, Soaring Cloud Lines, now sits in provincial government offices. 

“There was a canon of women who were there for me. Through years of experimentation and hanging in, I’ve discovered what I’m good at and now I mentor other artists." 

Time and Terrain is featured at Art Gallery of St. Albert until March 9. An in-person tour takes place Feb. 14 at noon followed by an artist talk/reception on Feb. 22 from 6 p.m. to. 8 p.m. A virtual tour is available on Feb. 27 at noon on Facebook Live.  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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