The Rouge Gallery – Rossland B.C.

I’ve been in the Kootenay Mountains this last two weeks, mostly house painting, but unbeknownst to me, my calendar was marked with an opening to the Rouge Gallery in Rossland, B.C. It’s a brand new gallery, a cooperative of several Rossland area painters and craftspeople.

I just wish I had a similar turn out to one of my openings. There must have been 200 people coming to see this group show, men, women, children and even infants – a real family affair; a real community event. The gallery is small; people were spilling out into the street, engaged in conversations about the artwork, but also about family events and the Golden City Days. That started the next day with a parade and a lively rural Fall Fair complete with a harvest competitions for best baking, best produce and best home arts.

There were paintings hung at eye level throughout, and ten feet up, another row of paintings. There must have been about 70 works in all by 20 artists.

The Kootenay area is well known as an area with a mature artistic community. The work is highly individualistic and of good quality. Before I get into detail, I must say that I took photos of these works in the gallery under less than perfect conditions and the photos are offered here as pretty good representations of the individual pieces but the colour may be a bit off and I had to skew some back into shape in order to show the work as rectangular rather than the irregular quadrangles that I took.

Also, I may have missed mentioning an artist or two and if anyone from the Group Show can supply me with a photo, I’d be glad to update this post to include them.

So here goes:

On one hand, Anora Fisher paints small trompe l’oeil canvases – Books and Wine; Shenango Canyon; Bridge Lake. The compositions are perfectly balanced, the effects of light are perfect and the detail in the Dutch Master’s tradition, is amazing.

Left: Books and Wine Right: Bridge Lake

At the other end of the spectrum, there were some pleasant, dreamy abstracts (Spring Banks) by Claude Stormes, with little clue as to their inspiration except the title which left much up to the imagination. In these, there is no detail or specificity at all.

Claude Stormes

Louise Drescher is one of four artists driving the creation of this gallery. She managed the hanging of the works and prepared a fine wine and cheese nosh for opening night visitors. She is primarily known for her folk art paintings. Her commissioned work, a view of Rossland, maintained this style but showed her work moving towards a more subtle tonal range and rounded forms than her usual, flat shaped works. Huckleberries, another of her new works, followed on this trend – a new departure.

Left: L. Drescher Rossland Right: L. Drescher Huckleberries

Below: Ingrid Baker Shimmering Leaves

Ingrid Baker who has established her reputation on English style watercolour adapted to the local landscape, is moving forward into imaginative works in a new highly colourful and abstract style.

Stephanie Gauvin Rossland

There were several other landscape painters – Stephanie Gauvin’s work in a previous incarnation was quite expressionist and gestural with a Soutine-like quality to it. These new ones have more defined and flatter shapes and seem more calculated than her earlier ones.

I rather liked Jennie Bailie’s interpretive landscapes which are hard edged and linear in the detail. There is sufficient interest in the abstraction of the tree shapes with their curious texture and the mountain planes which have been reduced to four tonal values represented by individual colours. It works!

On the other hand, she showed two floral canvases whose compositions were uninteresting. Free-form splotches of colour pure hue represented the flowers that were just too unhappily accidental to retain me in the image. If this is a new way of working, it needs more attention to developing a good balance between positive and negative shapes in the overall imagery.

My favourite was a large oil painting by Lasha Mutuel. Backed by a clear blue sky, three women in highly decorative dresses stand passively. One holds a large Savoy cabbage in a highly realistic style as if it were a sacred offering. The realism of this object contrasts with the flatter, decorative aspects of the dress patterns and the flowers floating in front of another of the women. Her iconography is symbolist and outstandingly individual. She showed two other works Tara’s Boat and Adrift that were more illustrative than the large painting and while interesting, packed less punch.

I went back into the gallery two days later to take photos of some of the paintings, but the big one had sold. It was gone and in it’s place was another original composition, a woman very much like a portrait of Lasha herself, standing with a large ginseng or mandrake root in her outstretched arm. It appears to symbolize the male force and uprooting and the woman’s struggle to hold on for dear life.

Lasha Mutual

Andy Holmes exhibited several bright coloured paintings in mixed folk art and surrealist style. I found his Cycling Crow fascinating. A large black crow stands atop a red bicycle that is going nowhere. In the wheel where the spokes should be, a whole other story is going on, scratched out in a white line drawing.

Andy Holmes Left: Cycling Crow Right: Hundred Waters

Hundred Waters, a surreal portrait, is a take off on Friedensriech Hundertwasser’s style. While the imagery was very interesting there is progress to be made on painting quality and the recycled framing does not enhance the work.

Karla Pearce – Bouquet of magnolias

Karla Pearce displayed two large expressionist bouquets which were more about joyously moving thick paints about than about the specificity of flowers. I rather enjoyed these strong, direct works. There is a good command of colour in defining white and shadow which is not easy to do. She handles the tonal arrangement with ease. Her frontal approach to the bouquet could give her compositional difficulties with the background, but she has broken up the ground with large patches of colour – sky blue, grey for shadow, and white – that make the eye travel around comfortably. Despite the looseness of the painting, she has defined the flowers sufficiently that we know they are magnolias, no doubt about it.

There were several other works by Pearce, two of them in water media and some large canvases with landscape theme.

Jennifer Smith showed two large landscapes, Moss with Red Flowers and Rocks and Roots. Smith’s painting has a predominant linear quality with blocks of colour underneath. These large and highly detailed works show a maturity and uniqueness of style, a good command of composition and a sense of drama with the strategically placed red flowers. It’s because of them that the eye continues to shift throughout the painting, and they lend a warmth to an otherwise cool palette of colours.

I have to apologize for the quality of this photo by John Lake. There’s quite a bit of glare on it, but it was the best I could do. He had three photographs with a theme of the figure in motion. For a photographer to deliberately show three photos that are primarily out of focus because the figure was in action takes a bit of courage; but I personally like these very much. They make the viewer search for the figure; they have motion and dynamism to them.

” Daisies”- Charlene Barnes – Acrylic

Charlene Barnes showed a work entitled “Daisies”. You can see influences of Chagall with the flying daisies in the sky, and van Gogh, with the swirling sky and the thick paint. It’s quite pleasantly imaginative in the manner of the Post-Impressionist Naive in style.

Heather Good: Wild Flowers

Heather Good showed two large canvases, Italy and Wildflowers, with writing superimposed on an abstract image. The work shows a maturity and comfort level with experimental imagery, using bothopaque and transparent colours, with a good contrast of apparently free form strokes (almost dribbles) and controlled images. Her sense of colour is strong though subtle. What could have been a very cool-coloured painting is offset with warm oranges and reds and blues tending to warmth (the turquoise and sky blues). Despite there being few vertical elements in the painting, Heather quietly leads the viewer through the painting with a variety of different items – the white gizmos in the middle, the writing, the complicated orange and red passages. It’s curious because it defies some of the compositional standards and works in spite of that.

Sarah Zannussi’s blue and white pottery and Robin Otteranger natural coloured stoneware provided some works of form. There were a few felted works and woven blankets of beautiful tactile and visual beauty by Trish Rasku. I apologize to these fine craftspeople that I did not get photos of their work while I was there.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was a bit surprised to have been invited to this show, but I was really pleased by the quality of work that was shown and I hope you’ve vicariously been able to enjoy some of it with me.


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8 Responses to “The Rouge Gallery – Rossland B.C.”

  1. forestrat Says:

    More cool stuff.

    My favorites are “Bridge Lake”, “Rossland”, “Shimmering Leaves”, and for some reason I like the crow on the bike too.


  2. karla pearce Says:

    Nice review!


  3. fencer Says:

    Thanks for the art tour… crow on the bike was strangely appealing…


  4. Charlene Barnes Says:

    Excuse my naivete, reviewer, but who are you?

  5. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Hi Charlene,
    Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you were not happy with my description of your work. I actually think your work is great.
    Your work has imagination and personality in the fanciful way you put images that might not logically seem to go together, into a dream-like ensemble.
    Naif or Naive painting is actually a Post Impressionist school of painting, which was what I was referring to. It’s also called Primitive sometimes, but I make a distinction between the two, with primitive (for me) drawing source from aboriginal cultures and Naive, drawing inspiration from the delightful free thinking of children.
    Henri Rousseau is one of the famous ones, and Chagall has some similar qualities although in the period that he was working, he was called a Surrealist. Your work could be considered Surrealist also. You can look him up on Wikipedia and get more information about him.
    When I was studying at University, I did a major paper on his work because I liked his imagination so much. He had a fascinating relationship to artist of his time which you might like to follow up on.

    By the way, you might also like to look at a contemporary artist that I would say fit the Naive school of painting, Rick Mobbs. Just Google his name and you will find him easily.

    I’ve looked you up on the web-site now and have found the image above, complete with title. I’ll edit the post to reflect that.

  6. karla pearce Says:

    I am publishing a Magazine, Some Kootenay Arts Talk ( SKAT ) and am looking for a writer. Interested? If so, contact me through e-mail.

  7. Jean Says:

    I was googling Huckleberry because I live on a piece of
    land the deed of which says “Huckleberry Flat.”

    I love the huckleberry painting.


    Thanks for your comment. Louise will be thrilled to have another admirer for her art work.

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