BY ELIZABETH NOLAN
FOR SALT SPRING ARTS
Artcraft’s final Showcase exhibition of the summer will present four highly accomplished artists working on themes related to the local environment and climate crisis.
A Closer Look: Nature and Materials features Sibéal Foyle, Peter Pierobon, Paul Oeuvray and Jan Smith. Artworks featured in the show will include painting, drawing, woodwork, metalsmithing and fine art jewelry. The artists have diverse skills and experiences, but all draw inspiration from the natural environment that forms the foundation of their art practices.
The show is the result of an interlinking set of partnerships, and features two married couples (Smith and Oeuvray, and Foyle and Pierobon). The two women in the group started working together through a bi-weekly art practice check-in exercise last year, and have exhibited together in the past. When they decided to submit a Showcase proposal, each of their husbands turned out to be interested in joining in. Then Pierobon and Oeuvray developed their own duo bond, with Pierobon providing expert advice and support as he and Oeuvray worked through their respective wooden furniture projects.
Oeuvray is a computer scientist and software architect who has mainly created woodwork for the homes he’s built and renovated with Smith, although they have also collaborated on some pieces. He explained he is drawn to the work of iconic mid-century modern furniture makers Charles and Ray Eames. He has been working toward an even more minimalist approach.
To create his own Eames-inspired chairs, Oeuvray has been creating wood laminate from scratch using scraps of local Douglas-fir left over from building his island home. The gruelling process involves gluing thin layers of the fragile wood together, vacuum sealing them and then molding the laminate into shape, convincing the wood to stay that way afterwards.
“Wood is a brilliant medium to work in; it’s completely made by nature. The challenge of working with a natural material and turning it into a man-made object but still allowing the essence of the material to remain motivates me,” Oeuvray said.
Pierobon has been designing and building furniture for over 40 years. He opened studios in various locations, including Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco and back home in Vancouver before moving to Salt Spring Island, and his work can be found in lofty collections around the world such as New York’s Museum of Art and Design.
His 11-foot-wide cabinet promises to be a monumental presence at the exhibit, with inspiration stemming from the coastal landscape of mountains rising out of the ocean. Functionally, the cabinet comprises five separate boxes, each of which provides custom storage for various items related to serving drinks, with the three centre boxes pulling open and the two end ones accessed by opening a door.
“It’s a truly spectacular composition,” Pierobon noted of B.C.’s signature geography. “Secondarily, the area is riddled with fault lines that suggest an ever-present danger to the region and I wanted to incorporate their presence in the piece.”
Foyle’s work ranges from clean, colourful nature-based drawings with expansive white space to expressive oil paintings, such as an evocative swimming scene that was a 2017 Salt Spring National Art Prize finalist.
“As an immigrant to Canada, I find the beauty and vastness of the wild both stunningly compelling and terrifying,” the Irish-Canadian artist explains in her statement. “I share my life with others who feel equally drawn to the wilderness and as an artist, I am inspired by the memories and stories of times spent hiking, camping and exploring.”
Her work in this exhibition reflects the essence of those memories, and seeks to convey the wonder and awe Foyle feels when immersed in nature. The focus is on abstract painting this time, but she maintains her base in nature, with a palette that stems from her garden and the nearby sea. The dynamic movement in her brushstrokes is variously inspired by kelp swirling in the waves and bees’ flight patterns.
Smith, a printmaker, metalsmith and jewelry artist, has been working on art jewelry pieces reflecting her ongoing preoccupation with ocean- and wind-generated marks and gathered natural materials.
“My artwork evolves from an intimate connection to place and reflects my sense of identity and home. My practice involves walking, gathering and studying; I am absorbed by the complexity of the ephemeral natural ecosystem,” Smith said. “Impermanence and the fleeting moments that take us by surprise are the foundation of this work.”
A Closer Look: Nature and Materials is at Mahon Hall from Aug. 18 to Sept. 17, open daily during Artcraft hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An opening reception will be held on Friday, Aug. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. and an artists’ talk is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 20 from 2 to 3 p.m.