Tempestuous winterscapes, rocky spring melts and bright blue, cloudless skies echo in Nicole Bauberger’s show, Listening to the Mountain, featuring a series of small canvas paintings of Pilot’s Peak, a Tombstone mountain.
Nature’s capricious personality resonates in each painting of the mountain, allowing viewers a “fourth-dimension” look at art, according to Bauberger.
“It is difficult to show the passage of time in art, and in this setting we can go through the changing seasons, and changing time,” she says.
The vast Yukon landscape has long been admired by many, including artists who struggle to capture the sublime nature of the mountainous north.
The sheer encompassing space is hard to describe and define in a limited canvas space, according to Bauberger, who succeeded in, “allowing myself to be defined by the reductionist nature of painting.”
Her reductionism took one form: the mountain. She focused on Pilot’s Peak and allowed a conversation to build with it. Pilot’s Peak, also known as Mount Viner, spoke to her through oil on canvas, and she listened.
Bauberger decided to paint the Yukon after a road trip in 1996, and then quickly discovered how difficult it was to paint such an enormous land.
“I knew I had to paint here, and after that trip, I made more visits until I finally moved,” says Bauberger of her eventual permanent move to the Yukon.
“It was to paint. I came up here because after my first visit, there was something in the landscape that I wanted to engage with in painting.”
And that something turned out to be the mountain.
Nicknamed “Ears” by Bauberger, each canvas painting contains a message from her to Ears. It may be a comment on how the sky looks (cloudless or perhaps hazy with mist) or a note about the weather.
Each panel is personal, a phrase in a long conversation that never ends. Weather also became an important factor in Bauberger’s art; she passed time battling the elements while working out of the back of her van with oils and canvas.
“I was kind of roughing it out there, painting from the back of the van sitting cross-legged,” laughs Bauberger.
There are 154 paintings of the mountain in total, and two large drawings spanning up to 24 feet and standing 12 feet tall. The two large drawings are from on top of the mountain looking down. The effect is of organic enormity, a mountain’s perspective on the Lilliputian landscape it peers at.
Bauberger adds that the mountain’s point of view is important to her: “We build relationships by assuming other’s perspectives, and that was what I wanted to accomplish with the drawings,” she explains.
The Dempster Highway winds through the back of the drawing, crucial to Bauberger’s access to Pilot’s Peak.
Listening to the Mountain has travelled from a gallery in Grimsby, Ontario, to Grand Prairie, Sault Ste. Marie and Montréal. Its illustrious touring life ends here in its homeland, where Bauberger says it might stop permanently.
“I’m moving on to new works, and this show might be the last one.”
Listening to the Mountain runs until May 22 at the Yukon Arts Centre Public Art Gallery.