In a duo-artist show at Copper Moon Gallery, Yukon artists Kathy Piwowar and Gabriele Watts blend the definition of landscape painting. With an abstract approach, Piwowar redefines how we look at standard landscapes, while Watts presents sweeping acrylics of well-known Yukon landscapes.
“We wanted to play off each other and make things very different,” says Piwowar about Landscapes: Real and Imagined.
“Imagine if we both had acrylic pieces of landscapes. How could you tell mine from Watts’? What would be the point? By taking more abstract looks at landscapes through my mixed-media, we’re enlarging the definition of landscape.”
Indeed, looking at Piwowar’s pieces, texture and colour attract the eye first.
Vivid orange pieces cover one wall, while crackle-surface mixed-media works cover the other. While fascinating with varied textures and themes, the pieces don’t immediately call out as landscape art.
That’s because any element in them can represent a landscape, Piwowar explains.
“This piece, Hymenoptera has a round metal disc. That represents the sun, which allows the piece to function as landscape. It’s all about being open to viewing landscape differently,” she says.
The artwork’s name isn’t coincidental, either. Piwowar has a biologist’s background; the title is the family name shared by the wasp, ant and other segmented insects. Her art is grounded in design and practicality, not abstract higher meaning.
Gabriele Watts also has a pragmatic view towards her landscapes, which are quite straightforward in comparison to Piwowar’s pieces.
“I paint Yukon landscapes because I see how they resonate with Yukon art viewers,” she says. Her work developed organically throughout the years, and she always felt the urge to create more.
“I was able to really find my direction at an Emily Carr art course that Kathy and I took this summer. It changed the way I approached painting, and pointed me towards my medium—acrylics,” Watts says.
They were able to attend a course together, and Piwowar ended up taking two courses, which inspired her work at this show.
She also seeks inspiration from her hobby of hiking. “I hike and I always see landscapes that I can envision as a painting. There are so many I have yet to do.”
Although Watts currently offers Yukon landscapes, she has a drive to paint scenes from her active travel life.
“I wish I had another life to paint. It feels like there’s just never enough time to create all that you have dreamed of,” she adds wistfully.
Watts is also proud that one of her pieces was chosen for the 2011 Yukon telephone directory. She painted Yukon River Valley in the summer of 2009 from view at the cliffs near the Meadow Lake Golf Course in Whitehorse. Next spring, he image will be distributed to every Yukoner’s home.
Watts and Piwowar may have different approaches, but they agree that they will always have a central, core urge to create and share art.
The drive never stops for this creative pair. “Once I’ve begun, I won’t ever be able to stop—or want to stop,” shares Piwowar. They both anticipate working separately toward future solo gallery shows.
Landscapes: Real and Imagined runs until November 30 at Copper Moon Gallery.