This winter the Agnes Jamieson Gallery presents an exhibition by Alex Jack, “Drawing in Landscape”. Offering work done in different mediums, from watercolour to pencils, pens and chalk pastels, Jack displays a remarkable collection based on Canadian landscape.
Jack is drawing on 40 years of practicing visual arts and, in some ways, this exhibition is a retrospective. He is drawn to landscape and continually makes trips to his favourite rural places, mostly to see how the land has changed. Artists that work en plein air will tell you that the land is never the same twice. Being out in the landscape, versus the studio, allows for a clearer and closer look at details that have subtly altered. Sun location, new growth, wild life, season – so much causes the canvas to be something different each time. This is the quintessential hook that causes Jack to make his way outdoors to capture anew what it has to offer.
For Jack, drawing is the core foundation of his art, having learned the more traditional and representational methods. He has stayed with this style all through his career, stating it is a better way to understand the visual language being less symbolic. To him, learning these fundamentals is like learning basic grammar for writing or theory chords for music. Literally the alphabet of visual arts.
His work, “Edge of the Ice,” could be seen as symbolic, certainly abstract, but it is an actual visual seen in nature. The stark contrast in white snow/ice to black water is something we regularly see.
Most of his work is a simplification of the landscape to shape and line, allowing the media to do what it has to offer. Shapes and colours blending with soft pastels. Solid, strong lines created with pencils. Sections in melded watercolour. His work can be compared to David Milne who also captured the landscape in the same area of Ontario.
Oddly, landscape is not a topic often shown in galleries. Jack believes this is due to it not representing people, or perhaps it has been overdone and not exciting. One would think the theme would always be welcomed considering that the iconic identity the Group of Seven gave Canada was mostly in the style of landscape art. This does not deter Jack, however. Nor does the low income an artist has in Canada. For him, he is willing to sacrifice his lifestyle for his art. He mentions that he weighs out a purchase of something to that of art supplies and paper. Living in his means can be a challenge, but Jack sees it is a form of freedom – he is doing what he loves.
In the 1990s when he sold his place in Toronto and moved to an area near Kingston, most thought it unusual. When asked what people think of it today, he says most are envious. And indeed, many are moving their way out of the city. To have a large studio space at fractions of the cost is what Jack saw early on and has not looked back. To add to this, Jack has not embraced the social media madness. As cited by more and more artists, the internet is taking up too much of their time and reducing their creativity.
There are many comparisons between Jack and André Lapine. Lapine is the prominent artist of the Agnes Jamieson Gallery permanent collection. His work was primarily landscape but he was acknowledged to be the best illustrator of horses. For Lapine, drawing was the base requirement for an artist and being outdoors sketching was his joy. Born in 1866, Lapine’s training was based purely in representational. He was originally taught in a strict Russian style, learned the new styles in France and fine-tuned his ability in Holland. He then was an important influence in the development of Canadian art.
He was quoted to say “if you cannot draw, what is the use in painting?”
Lapine also felt that revolution was important but who wants to always live with it. Perhaps not directly related to Jack’s ideology, but the relatability of both these artists’ work has people continually admiring it through the test of time.
A selection of Lapine’s work will be on display during this exhibition.
“Drawn in Landscape” is exhibiting until April 2, 2022. The gallery is located at 176 Bobcaygeon Road in the town of Minden and is admission by donation. For more information about the gallery visit mindenhillsculturalcentre.blog
Submitted by Agnes Jamieson Gallery Curator