Light, water, sky: three Canadian artists share the destinations that inspired their landscapes

It’s easy to take the natural sites of your home country for granted. But Canada has a rich history of artists portraying our vast and varied lands in a new light. Here, three contemporary landscape designers detail the regions that inspire their work.

Steve driscoll

Art: “A light stolen from the sun”

"A light stolen from the sun," 2021, digital print on low iron laminated glass, 432 x 108 inches.

The inspiration: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ont.

“The landscape is as close as possible to a universal language,” says Steve Driscoll. For the Toronto painter raised in Oakville, nature offers a place to escape, especially in times of stress or feeling bogged down in city life.

Multicolored trees in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario.

His latest inspiration is a three-hour drive from his home: Algonquin Provincial Park, which Driscoll captured in a huge, moody backlit room that fills the lobby of CIBC Square in Toronto. Painter says visiting the wilderness – known for its ridge-top views, hills of maple trees, and lakes numbering in the thousands – sometimes feels like you’re in a cartoon “Road Runner”: a rehearsal strange views in which it is easy to get lost.

Often, it is only after leaving the park that a new vision comes to mind. In the case of “A Light Stolen from the Sun”, it is the sun setting over Lake Biggar, washing the forest of red, that created a moment of magic.

It was an opportune moment: Driscoll knew he would have to create works of art nearly 11 meters tall for the building, and what could be better than the towering red pines of Algonquin? The finished piece – which lasted five years, from painting to enlarging photos of the artwork and then transferring it to glass – is an immersive experience that requires you to look up, Driscoll says. “The brushstrokes open up and give you the impression of stepping into [the park], and because your eye level is just below the horizon, you have that feeling of wanting to go out to the lake and explore.

Fabien Jean

Fabian Jean in front of his work, "Sea (Orange)."

Art: “Horse, Ocean, Boat”

"Horse, Ocean, Boat," 2018, oil on canvas, 36 x 40 inches.

Inspiration: Cavendish Beach, PEI

Sandstone boulder on the waterfront at Cavendish Beach, PEI.

The works of Montreal painter Fabian Jean do not all represent landscapes, but most are inspired by natural sites, both in Canada and abroad. “There is no direct narration as is often the case with other paintings,” explains Jean, who describes landscape art as open. “Viewers can get directly into the work and think about it. ”

“Horse, Ocean, Boat” is not a traditional piece of landscape – there is a giant horse in the middle, after all – but it is a piece that John calls seminal for his current landscape work, much of it explore seascapes. The painting was directly inspired by a trip Jean and his wife took to Cavendish Beach in Prince Edward Island.

Even though it was peak tourist season, the couple spent some private time on the beach and were able to enjoy the serene surroundings, which they described as “uniquely Canadian.” Jean felt a sense of calm, security and optimism watching the waters, a feeling he hoped to capture on canvas using warm, inviting colors.

The trip also encouraged Jean to reflect on the importance and importance of water in Canada, hence his recent interest in seascapes. “Water can be a very emotional substance that [can explore] light and dark, how we feel in a moment and our relationship to nature itself, ”he says. “It’s a basic element, but it can really force people to think [upon themselves]. ”


Multimedia artist Niap.

Art: “03.26.21”

"03.26.21," 2021, watercolor and ink on paper, 30 x 18 inches.

Inspiration: Nunavik, Que.

When Montreal Inuit artist Niap returns to her hometown of Kuujjuaq, in northern Nunavik, Quebec, the first thing she does is sleep. She never realizes how exhausted she is from the constant bustle of the city, where it seems impossible to be truly alone. But in the north, there is a quality in the air and light of the region that Niap describes as “a purity” that brings him a sense of peace.

The frozen Koksoak River near Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Quebec.

This is exactly what she tries to capture in her latest series, “Silavut” (in Inuktitut for “our skies, our weather, our outdoors”), a collection of imagined landscapes inspired by Nunavik. “They are the feeling of being in the north,” she says of the works, which are painted on vertical canvases to illustrate the height of the vast skies as well as the earth.

The pieces are more abstract than the traditional landscape pieces. Instead, the artist attempts to explore the light and natural forms of the region and convey the comfort she finds in the silence and solitude inherent in Nunavik.

Niap’s art is constantly evolving. For a moment she will focus on the traditional Inuit tattoo, the next throat song, the next sketch. But she has never spent as much time on a series as on her watercolor landscapes. “The landscape is the desire to be at home,” she says. “This series gave me a good reason to come home.”

The Star understands travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. But like you, we dream of traveling again, and we publish this story with future trips in mind.

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