Arnold Shives captures B.C.'s landscape in Mountain Imprints
Arnold Shives: Mountain Imprints
At the Teck Gallery until August 30
Soaring peaks, roaring rivers, massive glaciers, scudding clouds, wide skies dotted with snowflakes or glittering with stars—Arnold Shives makes art out of his rich experience of the mountains of British Columbia. A dedicated climber, hiker, backpacker, and camper since his youth, the senior North Shore artist has used block prints, acrylic paintings, ink drawings, monotypes, watercolours, and relief sculptures to convey the spiritual and physical grandeur of his subject. He has also communicated, through his work, his feelings of gratitude and humility in relationship to vast nature.
As seen in the small show of large prints at the Teck Gallery, Shives’s style ranges from a quirky and expressive form of representation, evocative of outsider art, to something that approaches biomorphic abstraction, reminiscent of Jean Arp by way of Alan Wood. In his block prints, especially his linocuts, Shives reduces landscape forms to sharply outlined passages of flat or patterned colour. His palette is understated, often monochromatic, with extensive black and white areas inflected by light and dark greys and greyish blues, creams and beiges, and sombre greens. Occasionally, as in Chalice of the Forest, a tongue of wedge of an unexpected hue, such as chrome yellow, penetrates the dominant forms.
That formal arrangement—a long, penetrating form within a larger wedge or oblong—recurs in a number of Shives’s prints. Another example is Snow Gullies and Cloud, in which there is a primordial sense of life-giving energy infusing the natural world.
The Teck Gallery show is perhaps less about the 12 prints on view here (a much more comprehensive exhibition of Shives’s work occurred at the Burnaby Art Gallery in May and June 2011) than it is about celebrating a newly launched book. Alpine Anatomy: The Mountain Art of Arnold Shives is a publication of the BAG, Simon Fraser University Gallery, and Tricouni Press. Crisply designed by Jen Eby, it features essays by Bill Jeffries, Edward Lucie-Smith, Darrin J. Martens, Toni Onley, and Glenn Woodsworth, and an interview between Shives and Montreal writer and curator John Grande. (Yes, that’s the same John Grande who was recently in Vancouver as curator of Earth Art 2012 at VanDusen Botanical Garden.)
The subjects of the essays range across Shives’s extensive mountaineering history, his deep Christian faith, his environmental activism, and his work’s relationship to 18th-century Romanticism, 19th-century transcendentalism, and 20th-century concrete poetry. The book also examines his engagement with the block-printing process. “What the active printmaker comes to learn is that printmaking isn’t simply a matter of duplicating images,” Shives says. “It’s a way of achieving effects that cannot be achieved any other way. There’s a structural process, a logic involved.”
The book is generously illustrated, with 75 colour reproductions charting the course of Shives’s “mountain-picturing” career, from 1961 to 2010. A few photographs, including an image of a slight, youthful Shives standing on the summit of the Black Tusk, are also included. It’s a respectful tribute to a deeply committed artist.