It was over two years ago that I first presented my Earthling series. My mind was very much on the ever-evolving issue of climate change. (That hasn't changed.) At the same time, the idea of placing a stick figure into one of my abstract paintings had been something I'd been imagining for several years. When I was asked to do a solo show, the time seemed right to combine those two ideas in a new series.
The challenge of opening that show during the start of the pandemic was something I've written about before and I give full credit to Cheryl Bell of 14 Bells Fine Art for her determination in making it happen when circumstances were far from ideal.
The response to the Earthlings was over-whelming, encouraging me to continue the series long after the show ended, as I do today. They have evolved somewhat over time, but their impact remains the same. They seem to connect with people and that is what you always hope for as an artist, to create a painting that perhaps says far more than you could express any other way.
I have been asked how long it takes me to create each of these paintings. For all their seeming simplicity, each of the Earthling paintings takes a considerable amount of time and thought. It usually begins with a feeling I want to express about our planet, our humanity, our similarities. Then I must consider how to best communicate that through the child-like innocence of a stick-figure. I do a great many sketches searching for the most expressive pose. One constant I adhere to is the multi-coloured aspect of each figure which represents the fact that no matter where we come from, no matter our culture or background, beliefs or way of life, we are all the beings of a planet called Earth. The painting backgrounds remain purposely abstract, colour and light never quite materializing into something recognizable, but perhaps suggesting some earthly quality. Above all else, these are Earthlings. We are all Earthlings and maybe that's where the connection lies. I hope so.
The Earthlings will continue to evolve, continue to express feelings about our planet, our life and times. I honestly don't know where that will all lead, but I hope they mirror a positive, compassionate, and united future.
I'm very pleased to be exhibiting two paintings in the first Society of Canadian Artists Atlantic Members Exhibition opening Saturday, October 15 at 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery in Halifax. This is the first SCA show to highlight elected and associate members from the Atlantic Provinces and I'm in very fine company. The 35 artworks vary in both style and medium from paintings to sculpture and photography. The show continues until October 30th and everyone is welcome. For those unable to visit the gallery in Halifax, the artwork is available to see online by clicking HERE.
My Mom passed away this week. She was the first artist I ever knew. I watched her from the time I was a very young girl as she took colour and created a world of memories where there had only been a white canvas. I was spell-bound. She was mainly self-taught taking an adult education class to learn the basics, but Mom was fearless painting anything from the local landscape to commissioned portraits. She was a farm-wife living out in the country, but that never stopped her. First she started sharing her work on easels set on our front lawn on the corner. Cars stopped. Lots of cars. Soon she was showing in local exhibits and taking endless commissions. Eventually she became a student of artist Charles Couper and took her first university course to study art history. She loved painting and was immensely proud of the series she completed of the historical main street buildings in her hometown of Berwick. Seven years ago Mom suffered a severe stroke, but within months, she was painting again. We were amazed. Then one day, she asked me, "How do I make green?" And she knew. We both knew. She just smiled and put the paints away. If she couldn't paint the way she always could, it was time to stop.
Mom, all your paintings are still out there. They're hanging on walls and featured in books and people still love them. You were an artist and you were my inspiration.
Well this was a surprise in so many ways. Recently gallery owner Cheryl Bell emailed me about an interview, explaining producer Paul Kimball was creating a new show called Gallery 902 for Eastlink television. Sharing my art is why I paint, but having my photo taken (let alone being on film) is right up there with standing on the edge of a tall building. Not my favourite thing. However, director and host Veronica Reynolds invited me for coffee and put my mind more at ease. This might even be fun. In the end, it was actually a great experience and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.
As an interviewer, Veronica does her homework. She asked me to look back to when I first became an artist (it was as soon as I could hold a pencil), my transition from realism to abstract art, community art projects I've been involved in over the years, and all about my current work hanging at 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to remember how this artistic journey all began, the challenges and high points along the way, and what lies ahead. Although I've always made art, it took me a long, long time before I would call myself an artist as I just felt so humbled by all the great artists I admired. But then I finally realized that being an artist was not something I wanted to do, it was who I always was from the start.
A huge thank you to Veronica and her team for the whole experience, for allowing me to share my story and my art. Personally I can't wait to see the entire upcoming series when it premieres in 2023. This province is blessed with an abundance of fabulous artists and each of them has their own personal story to tell.
Also a sincere thank you to Cheryl Bell, owner of both 14 Bells Fine Art and The Prow Gallery, for making this all possible.
More new work recently delivered to 14 Bells Fine Art Gallery in Halifax. This year marks the gallery's fifth anniversary and I'm so proud that I've been part of the 14 Bells family of artists from the very start. Finding a gallery that encourages and supports your work is so important. Gallery owner Cheryl Bell is an absolute professional from start to finish and I will be forever grateful for the unwavering faith she has in my work and all the other artists she represents. The teamwork involved is so important and I have the greatest trust and respect for all her efforts. No surprise that Cheryl has opened a second beautiful gallery on the Halifax waterfront. She's made a huge difference in the art landscape of our city. Here's to continued success for 14 Bells Fine Art and the new Prow Gallery.
At any given time, our world faces problems and crises that humanity struggles to address. Already this century is presenting a unique combination of challenges heightened no doubt by the immediate and ceaseless barrage of information presented by the internet. Like many people, and as an artist, I have watched and listened and searched for understanding.
My new series of paintings contemplates the paradox of "less is more" and the various interpretations of that phrase. The dictionary offers this definition, "to express the view that a minimalist approach to artistic matters is more effective, that there is value in simplicity and that more can be accomplished with less."
In a world of excess, less can also offer both relief and a solution. Having less of one thing can lead to more of another. Our lives are inundated with endless information, good and bad. Stepping back from this overload, offers relief and more relaxation. In another example, the endless demands of consumerism greatly stress our lives and the planet. Simply put, buying less, accumulating less, wanting less, takes pressure off of our lives and offers more freedom. It certainly offers relief to the planet. This interpretation of "less is more" can be applied to many issues including less confrontation, more peace. It begins with priorities and what is truly important.
My new work pares down the excess. There is a certain peace in the simplicity. The smaller focal point, the movement and energy of the organic black and white drawing, is relieved by the clean edge and larger mass of solid colour. Less is more. Less offers more.
Painting each work in this series is an exercise in meditation, the circular forms a reflection of the Zen ensō. Focusing on the form is enough, at once complete and endless, empty yet full. Another paradox to consider. Less is more.
These are my thoughts, expressed visually, offered humbly, but my joy comes from the individual interpretation of each viewer.
My "Earthlings" series has led me down a path I never expected. These simple figures have allowed me to express the essence of certain emotions and events in life. The challenge has been to infuse simple stick figures with a particular feeling, shaping how they live on the canvas. And as basic and childlike as these figures appear, they somehow communicate in a universal language. They somehow manage to touch others, very deeply at times.
I've been thinking a lot about simplicity lately, thinking about the small things that truly matter, and those moments in time that really put things in perspective. Life doesn't have to be complicated. We don't have to chase some imaginary ideal in our minds or constantly grasp for more. That pursuit can be exhausting and we might just miss something precious lying right in front of us. Thank you to all who have connected in some way to the Earthlings. That connection is why I love making art.
Membership in the Society of Canadian Artists (SCA) provides me with the opportunity to exhibit my work in a variety of group exhibitions across Canada. The 2021 Elected Members Juried Exhibition is currently being hosted by Gallery 78 in Frederiction, New Brunswick and is also available to view on the SCA website. The exhibit runs from September 10th to October 2nd and features 37 artworks created by elected SCA members from across Canada. It's an honour to show my work alongside such a diverse group of outstanding artists featuring a wide range of styles and subject matter. Take a moment and view the online exhibit here. Enjoy.
There is a beautiful simplicity to a child’s drawings. The meaning is clear. This is cloud. This is water. This is sun. This is grass. I recently completed four paintings initially inspired by my remembrance of how I drew as a child, and how so many other children innately represent the world around them. Beginning with simple line drawings, I then added color, but hopefully with the maturity to add a deeper understanding for what is cloud, water, sun and grass. At the same time, I did not want to destroy the original innocence. As adults we so often make our world far more complicated than it need be.
Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, these four paintings also represent the four elements of nature: earth, air, water, and fire. These are the materials that make up our world, that also compose all of humankind. We are one with this planet, and now as never before we are coming to realize how fragile and essential these elements are to our survival.
“We Breathe” is last, but not least, a meditation. Each painting is an invitation to stop, remember, and feel gratitude for life.
Upon this earth, we breathe. Beneath this sky, we breathe. Beside this water, we breathe.
Within this light, we breathe.
I was mesmerized by the power and potential of art from the moment I picked up a crayon as a child, the adults instructing me to colour within the lines. I’m still in awe after years of eager exploration and experimentation, studying and learning from so many artists I admire. I’m still striving to reach farther, to take chances, to create art that makes a difference. Happily, colouring outside the lines has become my mantra.
Anna Horsnell SCA
Canadian painter of contemporary abstract art