Backlands Exhibition at the Sivarulrasa Gallery

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by Edith Cody-Rice

A lively group of art lovers sipped wine and nibbled cheese and strawberries as they wandered through the lastest exhibition at the Sivarulrasa Gallery on Saturday, September 9.

Gallery owner Sanjeev Sivarulrasa with the artists Susan Tooke (left) Barbara Gamble (right)

Titled Backlands, this exhibition features the work of Halifax based Susan Tooke and Ottawa resident Barbara Gamble. The exhibition calls attention to pristine or undisturbed habitats; undeveloped land that stands in contrast to developed land. The Millstone interviewed the artists about their backgrounds and art. They each chose a piece of their work as a focus.

Susan Tooke with her painting Groundscape, the Backlands

Susan Tooke grew up in New Jersey with a Canadian father from Paisley, a village in Southwestern Ontario. She now lives in Halifax. Susan studied art in Virginia, then media studies in New York. In 1980 she moved to Canada and in 1981 became a full time artist. For ten years, she illustrated children’s picture books, including “Lasso the Wind” by George Elliott Clarke, the celebrated Canadian poet and playwright. At the end of that period, Susan became less satisfied with realism and changed her style, developing a symbolic language to represent life.  She wants people to have a sense of environment, life, energy and the relationship between life forms. Her painting Groundscape, the Backlands (above) was inspired by the backlands on the edge of Halifax, a rural area from which one can see the whole of Halifax. Susan is fascinated by the groundscape, imagining the rocks to have life. She sees them as part of the living world. Her painting has sweeping and complementary forms which create a dynamic between the various images and between the viewer and the art.

Barbara Gamble with her painting Forest Creek

Barbara Gamble became an artist in her late teens. Daughter of a military officer, she lived in Europe as a child and responded strongly to the rich artistic culture available there. She realized then that art is a form of communication. Back in Canada she studied fine arts at Algonquin College. In 1974, she and her husband founded the Ottawa Christmas Craft Show, much beloved by artists and Christmas shoppers alike for the displays of high quality crafts. She also attended University of Ottawa to complete a fine arts degree. Barbara has been a full time artist for 25 years, 10 of those spent spent in a coop artists’ studio in Ottawa. She loves working with materials, from pottery to pastels and derives great joy from landscape, painting from things she knows. As a result of her participation in a naturalized community planting project, Barbara has been allowed access to secret government locations where rare and indigenous plants still grow. The Museum of Nature gave Barbara a solo retrospective show in 2008. Barbara has begun to incorporate birds into her landscapes and several paintings on display at the gallery are images of birds she has seen.

Barbara says that the painting Forest Creek (above) is an imagined forest but is inspired by her walks in the Arlington Woods near her Ottawa home. The texture of the oils is altered by the addition of wax to the oil, softening the outlines and imparting  a mysterious dreamy quality to the work. The forest is infused with more light than a real forest would be, a privilege of the artist’s imagination, and the wax imparts a subtle light reflecting sheen.

The Backlands exhibition continues at Sivarulrasa Gallery until Oct 8.