My constructed paintings are built up of layers of paper, canvas, glass, all manner of paints, gold leaf,
found objects, and others materials that I can no longer recall. Some layers conceal and others reveal but in the end each work is a whole world
-- a portrait of "all there is, seen and unseen".
Lynne McIlvride - 2007
I am surprised by my recent passage into landscape painting. I blame it on the new addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario with its extensive collection of David Milne’s landscape watercolours, and William Kurelek’s landscape visions. The Dorothy Knowles show at the McMichael Gallery is partly to blame as is Tom Thomson and of course the entire Group of Seven.
Last January I took part in Can Serrat Artist Residency at Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain. Montserrat is a visually outlandish mountain chain made up of strangely sinuous, suggestive forms and a surface of pink conglomerate stone. Montserrat is said to be an ancient riverbed and is an important catalyst to many artists’ work, most obviously Antoni Gaudí's architecture.
I went there intending to incorporate the Spanish language into landscape painting; however the landscape itself took over. There are words in some of the paintings but they are Catalan rather than Spanish and play a minor role. Montserrat and its Monastery are spiritual and intellectual touchstones in Catalan culture. The Monastery of Montserrat houses a much-revered “Black Madonna”.
It also served as a refuge for Catalan nationalists at the time of the Franco dictatorship when the use of the Catalan language was prohibited. If any language belongs in these landscapes it is Catalan but it is the rhythm of the mountain that speaks to me. I have never seen a landscape with so much arrested movement. One of the myths about the mountain is that giants were going to
wreak havoc on the land but a good witch turned them into stone mid-stride. The major part of this show is a body of watercolour and mixed media landscape paintings created in response to this mountain. Every morning for a month I would hike and sketch the mountain and every night I would paint it. This body of work represents the emotional response of an outsider grappling with
the physical and cultural vertigo of an overwhelming and myth-laden landscape.
The remaining landscapes in the show are “Brief Moments of Happiness”: joyful responses to the Canadian prairie sky.
Again I am drawn to the movement in the landscape: cloudscapes that come and go in a blink of an eye.
Lynne McIlvride 2010
Weather is such a powerful metaphor for human emotion. And that writhing weather monster, the tornado, is a particularly apt way of describing the trauma, the fury, the intensity of loss.
It's hard not to take a tornado personally: it gets to the point by narrowing down and strikes a specific spot. It comes out of the blue. We don't know what hit us.
We are caught in a whirlwind of emotion. Everything is up in the air. There is no emergency plan for these twists of fate.
To put a positive spin on it, a tornado (that snaking shape-shifter) is just energy. It makes a long-winded metaphor that lasts and lasts because it wrecks and then absorbs whatever it touches down on.
What starts out as an emblem of emotional devastation contorts into an expression of fury and then is reborn as a metaphor for unstoppable creativity, play, and passion.
Like the flowering cross, can it become a cornucopia? Blooming tornados! Elijah goes to heaven, Dorothy goes to Oz,
one thing for certain is we are pulled out of our orbit and dropped in a different place,
Lynne McIlvride July 2013