Attracted by landscape drawing
This winter, the Agnes Jamieson Gallery presents an exhibition by Alex Jack, “Drawing in Landscape”. Offering works produced in various mediums, from watercolors to pencils, pens and chalk pastels, Jack presents a remarkable collection based on the Canadian landscape.
Jack draws on 40 years of visual arts practice and in some ways this exhibition is a retrospective. He is drawn to the landscape and continually takes trips to his favorite rural locations, mostly to see how the land has changed. Outdoor artists will tell you that the earth is never the same twice. Being in the landscape, relative to the studio, allows for a clearer and closer look at details that have been subtly altered. The location of the sun, the new growth, the wildlife, the season – so many things make the canvas something different every time. It’s the quintessential hook that drives Jack to go outside to recapture what he has to offer.
For Jack, drawing is the foundation of his art, having learned the more traditional and figurative methods. He has stuck with this style throughout his career, stating that it is a better way to understand visual language being less symbolic. For him, learning these fundamentals is like learning basic grammar for writing or theoretical chords for music. Literally the visual arts alphabet.
His work, “Edge of the Ice”, could be seen as symbolic, certainly abstract, but it is an actual visual seen in nature. The stark contrast between white snow/ice and black water is something we see regularly.
Most of his work is a simplification of the landscape to be shaped and traced, allowing the media to do what they have to offer. Shapes and colors mingling with soft pastels. Solid and strong lines created with pencils. Melted watercolor sections. His work can be compared to David Milne who also captured the landscape in the same region of Ontario.
Curiously, the landscape is not a subject often shown in the galleries. Jack thinks it’s because he doesn’t represent people, or maybe he was overdone and unexciting. You would think the theme would still be welcome given that the iconic identity the Group of Seven gave Canada was primarily in the style of landscape art. This doesn’t deter Jack, however. Nor is the low income of an artist in Canada. For him, he is willing to sacrifice his lifestyle for his art. He mentions that he weighs a purchase of anything over that of art supplies and paper. Living within your means can be a challenge, but Jack sees it as a form of freedom – he does what he loves.
In the 1990s, when he sold his house in Toronto and moved to an area near Kingston, most found it unusual. When asked what people think of it today, he replies that most are envious of it. And indeed, many are leaving the city. Having great studio space at fractions of the cost is what Jack saw early on and hasn’t looked back. To add to that, Jack hasn’t embraced the social media craze. As more and more artists mention, the Internet takes up too much of their time and limits their creativity.
There are many comparisons between Jack and André Lapine. Lapine is the prominent artist in the Agnes Jamieson Gallery’s permanent collection. His work was mainly landscape but he was recognized as the best horse illustrator. For Lapine, drawing was the basic condition for an artist and being outside to draw was his joy. Born in 1866, Lapine’s training was purely representative. He was first taught in a strict Russian style, learned the new styles in France, and honed his abilities in Holland. He then exerted an important influence on the development of Canadian art.
He was quoted to say “if you can’t draw, what’s the use of painting?”
Lapine also felt that the revolution was important but who still wants to live with it. Maybe not directly related to Jack’s ideology, but the relativity of the work of these two artists makes people continually admire him through the test of time.
A selection of works by Lapine will be presented during this exhibition.
“Drawn in Landscape” exhibits until April 2, 2022. The gallery is located at 176 Bobcaygeon Road in the City of Minden and is admitted by donation. For more information about the gallery, visit mindenhillsculturalcentre.blog
Submitted by Gallery Curator Agnes Jamieson