There are two words in Latin that make me, a culture vulture from way back, feel immediately connected with Canadian painter Jane Waterous — "Ars Longa."
The phrase "Ars Longa" or "Art Endures," appears on the home page of her website.It is also something I have on a magnet on my fridge and I don't see it elsewhere often. The magnet says "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis" or "Art Endures, Life is Short."
Attributed to Hippocrates, it's meant to encourage us to grasp our art making with both hands. Prolific painter Waterous, who works in her Bahamas studio "at least" 100 hours a week, has taken it to heart.She is also known for playing with many different styles and perspectives.
"I have a thousand ideas in my head and the only thing that is limiting me is time," she explains in a phone interview.
"I'm a complete insomniac, so I work around the clock, which I love. It certainly gives me the chance to explore all kinds of ideas and styles.
"Even though it is probably far more traditional for an artist to be focused on one style and market that style, because I work so many hours and so hard, I don't think I'd get as much enjoyment. I love the variety... I can't look at nature, or my kids, or a family gathering and not see something new. I try to pull it all together."
This variety ranges from her well-known series of works under the banner "Gatherings" which show three-dimensional groups of tiny people creating very human patterns or tableaus as if from a great height, to the eco-political elements of her series "Mosaic," with styles so varied it almost feels like six artists rather then one created the paintings.
"Even though the styles are very different, the common thread is that they are all quite joyous," she says.
Twenty of Waterous's paintings are on show in a new exhibition at the Whistler Contemporary Gallery. The opening is Monday, Dec. 28, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"I'm excited to have the show but at this point I'm not able to be there," she says.
"It would take 25 hours to get there."
Originally from Toronto, Waterous has lived in the Caribbean for 18 years. Her career started in film but she eventually turned to visual art.
"How I paint something is important. The play on light, how nature or a set of lights play on a painting, or the light within the painting — how I paint it — is important. It adds to the texture and the three-dimensionality of it. It's a playfulness," she says.
She has frequently observed people at her exhibitions attempt to pull her three-dimensional characters off the canvas, as if they are sculptures.
"They think they are pinned on," she explains. "It's kind of fun to watch from afar."
Waterous's works on display at Whistler Contemporary Gallery vary; she calls it a "smorgasbord."
"They have quite a collection of the 'Gatherings,' to show how life is a series of gathering, social, family, work, even strangers. We all exist together," she says.
"The gallery also has work from my new series 'Into the Blue,' with the concept of memories of a child. That freedom and spirit of flying in the air before jumping into the water."
Another series represented at the gallery is "Morse Code."
"I'm very excited about that. I was working with Samantha Power, who was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. I did a large installation for the U.N. mission building in New York," Waterous says.
"I wanted a dialogue in the paintings that wasn't obvious, with an international sensibility."
Jeanine Messeguer, the director of the Whistler Contemporary Gallery, which after 23 years changed its name from Whistler Village Art Gallery at the beginning of the month, says Waterous is "keenly collected" around the world.
"It is a launch of new works," Messeguer says.
"The show is different because she is so diverse. This is the first opportunity for paintings other than the Gathering series to be shown... some of these works are major works."
The gallery changed its name after bringing in marketing consultants to look at how their branding was perceived in the art world. Messeguer says they feature the works of 45 top international artists.
"(The marketing consultants) chatted with people and realized that the name Whistler Village Art Gallery didn't really reflect who we are. It sounded like a gallery that was mainly Canadian or mainly local Whistler," Messeguer says.
The name change is clear to visitors to Whistler who look for contemporary art.
"It's a quick reference. It shows how the gallery sees itself and the direction we're taking... it's an established contemporary gallery that happens to be based in Whistler. The response from our clients and from the artists, as well, has been extraordinary."
For more information visit www.whistlerart.com.
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