Earth Matters exhibition at Gallery George invokes isolation of the pandemic and grandeur of the natural environment

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      For Vancouver artist Niina Chebry, icebergs hold a special fascination. It's not just their beauty, though that's undeniable.

      It's also what they represent in the 21st century. When parts of them come crashing into the sea on video, it's a compelling reminder of how vivid and real the climate crisis really is.

      "There is a kind of spirit about them," Chebry told the Straight by phone.

      This keen interest has led her to paint icebergs. And some of these artworks are on display in an exhibit called Earth Matters at Gallery George, which she founded last fall.

      Anthem
      Fidelis Art Prints

      "Sometimes, I get a little depressed on the state of the environment," Chebry said. "It's kind of my way of trying to find some beauty in days of doubt."

      She doesn't rely on photographs. Rather, she begins by premixing her colours and starts painting. Once she spots a shape, it gets chiselled into an iceberg, giving these paintings a very textural feel.

      Somewhere Between Now and Then
      Fidelis Art Prints

      "There are about five versions of a painting before the final painting is there," Chebry revealed. "There's no plan. It's just I see an image in there and I start carving it with the paint."

      In her artist's statement for "a meltdown", she stated that these "icy waterscapes have taken on another meaning" since the pandemic began.

      "The iceberg has become a metaphor, carrying suggestions of isolation and impermanence," she wrote. "My interest is in the potential of what these paintings might reveal to the viewer on many levels of understanding and experience."

      There are more than a dozen artists showing their works in Gallery George, which is about 2,000 square feet with a seven-metre ceiling. The large windows make it possible to see the art from the street.

      Arleigh Wood's Where Sea and Sky Meet.

      One of them is Arleigh Wood. In her artist statement, she wrote: "The earth feeds our spirit and needs our protection. Let these artworks connect you to nature and remind you of your fragile relationship with the globe."

      Lori Bagneres's The Ties That Bind is also part of the Earth Matters show. In her statement, she referred to the research of UBC forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard.

      Lori Bagneres's The Ties That Bind.

      Simard's team has examined how fungi networks transport water, carbon, and nitrogen between trees and across species, "essentially mimicking our own neural and social networks".

      "Since the onset of the global pandemic, there has been significant disruption to our social networks," Bagneres stated. "With this awareness of realizing that we are all ultimately connected, my aim in creating this ‘New Arcadia’ series is to communicate the importance of sustaining symbiosis in nature, in order to remain resilient.”

      Barb Pearson's Tomorrow's Promise.

      Artist Barbara Pearson declared in her statement that the beauty of Earth should not be sacrificed for anything.

      "Let us work, collectively, to bring it back! Because the Earth matters."

      Lori Goldberg's Reconstructed Nature 111 was created with acrylic on canvas. She chose to integrate material objects into the natural environment to point out that "beauty is ephemeral, and what we discard never truly disappears".

      Lori Goldberg's Reconstructing Nature 111.

      Madeleine Wood created Pretty Maids I and II with oil on canvas.

      "Nature produces so much that I often feel the need to distill my subjects down to their essential form," she said in her statement.

      "Arbutus tree bark in various degrees of exfoliation and evolving colour patterns inspire my abstract compositions. I angle myself low and close, waiting for messages."

      Madeleine Wood's Pretty Maids I and II.
      Earth Matters is at Gallery George (990 George Street in Vancouver) until April 25. It's open from noon to 5 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday or by appointment.

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