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From simplicity into the sublime

Encaustic painter Susan Wallis sees landscape not as a ‘place’ but as a self-contained subject complete with its own emotions.

Encaustic painter Susan Wallis sees landscape not as a ‘place’ but as a self-contained subject complete with its own emotions.

As a result, she does not paint how a landscape specifically appears, Wallis prefers to paint by feeling, giving viewers space to make an emotional connection to the work, the landscape and the environment.

“Although I admire hyperrealism, I like to leave viewers to make their own connections with the piece or to finish the piece when they look at it. It allows people to interpret it for themselves,” Wallis said Monday (Feb. 21) in advance of the opening of her second solo show, The Monumental Sublime: the greatest impact is often made in whispers, at Elevation Gallery in Canmore.

The Monumental Sublime opens Feb. 26 with Wallis in attendance from 2-7 p.m. The show closes March 5.

“I never say (a painting) is a particular field or a particular lake because it is a lake that we all know,” she said.

Through that approach Wallis hopes that if viewers respond to the emotions imbued in her work they’ll be more likely to do remember that feeling and be inclined to take actions to preserve landscape and the environment.

As part of her landscape work, and the need for any artist to take on new work and new perspectives, Wallis has been working on two new themes featuring fence lines in winter and birds nest, examples of which are at Elevation Gallery.

The fence lines look at boundaries and borders.

“I’m exploring where are the boundaries in your life, and how sometimes it is difficult to establish those boundaries with some people. And how important are they?

“We all do need our borders, whether it is the landscape or personally or emotionally.”

The bird nests, on the other hand, explore ideas of safety and security.

“I played with the idea that the nest is a sanctuary, a safe place a refuge for the bird while it is producing its young and to protect them so they are not prey for other animals.

“So I tried to mirror that, where is the nest in you life? Where do you feel safe?”

Wallis said encaustic, oil paint mixed with wax, is the ideal medium for her semi-abstract work suggesting the landscape and the emotion within by allowing her to provide texture and scratch fence lines, branches and fields that are at first quite simple, but speak of something greater: the grandeur of the land itself, the sublime.

“Due to our great and vast land we become elevated into the sublime. It can be physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. Through my paintings of the Canadian landscape I endeavour to elevate the viewer’s awareness to the grandeur of colours, textures and simplicity of their surroundings, be it through a lake’s reflection, the bark of a tree, a bird’s intricate nest or simple fence lines in the snow,” Wallis wrote in her artist’s statement.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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