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Artist points her eyes skyward
A flat pillar of greyish-white cloud hovers above Wood Lake from Katie Brennan’s home studio.
The Vernon-raised artist, who in October moved to new digs in Lake Country, has been looking at those gaseous formations in the sky for a while now, wondering about their shape, light and colour and the infinite space that surrounds them.
“My work came out of looking at the sky,” said Brennan. “What is so fascinating is when you have a clear sky, you cannot penetrate it, but the clouds give it perspective with levels of depth and distance. I am also fascinated on how light and colour can change the perception of the form. With that in mind, the sky is a fantastic image space.”
It is also the influence of Brennan’s latest group of paintings that have been one-and-a half-years in the making.
Entitled Clouds and Other Sky Phenomena, the collection will be shown for the first time at the Vernon Public Art Gallery starting Jan. 10.
But before you start thinking that Brennan’s head has always been in the clouds, think again.
Not only a practising artist and instructor, Brennan is also the curator at the Lake Country Art Gallery, and so you could say, looking at art is her life.
As a painter, she has set her sights on everything from the way lines cut across the landscape to the depths and ripple effects of pools of water. Some of her paintings influenced by the latter were recently shown at a gallery in New York City. However, it’s the sky that Brennan has been coming back to as of late.
“The sky phenomena reflects a representational image and the marvels of paint,” said Brennan. “I used to do a lot of lines in my art, diagrams and schematics as a standardized way of representing things. And the clouds add a contrast to that.”
The work for the Vernon show is actually a precursor to Brennan’s water works.
In 2011, after finishing grad school in Guelph, Ont., the artist went to Banff for a self-directed residency, where she started exploring the idea of clouds and other sky phenomena. Upon her return to the Okanagan, she began teaching as a sessional lecturer in the creative studies department at UBC Okanagan, which Brennan says reaffirmed her love of paint.
“I had been taking a lot of pictures of the sky and I didn’t know what to do with them, so I started painting clouds. I was so enamored with the idea of the sky as an infinite space,” she said. “I began by using monochrome colour for the sky, and started pooling paint for the clouds. Each colour was its own pool, and when watching the pools dry it was like watching how clouds form.
“There’s also the idea of what clouds look like. They are not uniform, and so all take on a different form.”
All the work for the Vernon exhibition has been painted in gouache (an opaque, but non-transparent medium) with an oil background.
“The pigments do different things and create a contrast,” said Brennan. “You have this beautiful, impenetrable buttery background and chalky pigments.”
And the colours — pinks, yellows, blues, and greys among them — will certainly have viewers looking up to the skies themselves.
Brennan will be present for the opening of her solo exhibition at the VPAG on Jan. 10. She is also giving an artist talk at the gallery on Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public by donation.