Artist Réal Calder and the Thompson Landry Gallery presented the opening reception of Calder’s new series of oil paintings, Of Fire and Water/De Feu et D’eau last night at the gallery’s Stone Distillery Building. Calder’s paintings enlivened the industrial space through their illustration of the energy inherent in the continuous motion of nature.
Calder started working on the series in November 2011 and the works were completed in rapid succession. To achieve fluidity and capture the essence of movement, Calder painted several coats of the same scene, slowly at first, then faster and faster for the second and third coats and finally with extreme rapidity on the final touches. The result is in turns peaceful and disturbing; a series of landscape paintings that encompass the tricky task of representing the elements of the natural world believably.
Born in Normétal, a small mining town in northern Québec in 1949, Calder studied painting at the Montreal Fine Arts School and then at the University of Québec. The geographical locations of the paintings in his Of Fire and Water series are varied: physical, imagined, or revisited in Calder’s mind. “Some were from a trip to the East Coast,” he says. “Some are from memories of when I was young.” His work Rapide blanc I is a river he remembers fishing in with his father as a child.
Calder paints in the studio, though he often creates preliminary pencil sketches outdoors. “The difficulty in this series was to make water look transparent,” he says of his biggest challenge creating these works. The focus, then, was on replicating visually nature’s process of flux. “I use [fire and water] in paintings as opposite movement,” says Calder. “What I like about fire is you can see the wind through it. There is a lot of movement.”
The gallery’s bartender served special cocktails in addition to wine in the spirit of the show at last night’s opening. The first, water, consisted of Water (1 Part HPNOTIQ Liqour, 3 parts white cranberry juice and one squeeze of lemon on the rocks) and Fire (A shot of ice cold Sortilège Maple Whisky in an ice cold glass).
Of Fire and Water/De Feu et D’Eau is showing until March 11, 2012. Several of the paintings have already sold; two, interestingly enough, to an insurance company specializing in coverage for natural disasters. Calder is currently considering another exhibition after his run at Thompson Landry, but will return to his teaching job as a professor of Visual Arts at the University of Québec in the Outaouais.