Dean’s island landscapes take on new spirit

Diana Dean may occupy a senior position in the island’s art scene, but she continues to expand both her own understanding of paint and Salt Spring’s reputation as a centre of high-quality work.

The fact that the reputation is well deserved is easily demonstrated in her latest series of paintings, which can be seen at Merchant Mews until July 9. Her vivid oils have often focused on figure and narrative; in these works it’s the island and its surrounding sea and sky that take a central role.

“I think what I love about this show is it’s such a celebration of Salt Spring and Diana’s time here,” exhibition curator Anthony Matthews said during Friday night’s opening reception.

Matthews noted Dean has spent 35 years walking around and looking at the island, which acts as muse rather than model. Her landscapes are recognizable for their island contours and sea vistas, but nothing is a straight-up representation of any one place. As well, her lush palette is not necessarily what one sees in nature, but as Matthews says, the colours in which Salt Spring should be shown.

Dean’s reference material for the new landscapes includes some sketches and paper works she did as long as 30 years ago. Places like her own gardens, a waterfall near Musgrave Road and the former Mansell Farm are touchstones for her own interpretations of space. In many instances she changes the setting for a favourite shrub or tree, or adds a structure from an altogether different location. The paintings are therefore infused with the spirit of Salt Spring as a specific place, but not a mirror.

“You can go take a photograph if you want an exact thing. These are something else,” Dean said.


For more on this story, see the July 5, 2017 issue of the Driftwood newspaper.

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