A touch for texture

Tara Bradbury
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Artist blends textiles, paint, sculpture to explore nature

Photographs don’t quite do June Walker Wilson’s paintings justice. They almost have to be touched to be believed — or, at least, seen up close.

Walker Wilson, a native of England who’s been living in this province since the early 1980s, said she tries to be innovative as an artist, coming up with pieces and techniques that are both self-satisfying and interesting to the public. As a result, she has developed her own textured textile technique, combining three of her favourite forms of visual art.

“I’ve always loved textiles, ever since I was a teenager, and I love sculpture and painting. I didn’t want to let any of them go,” she explained.

The technique, which she developed about two years ago, includes the application of fabric to board, which is then sculpted to form a relief. Walker Wilson uses oil to execute her painting on top.

“One of the advantages of acrylic paints is that they dry quickly, but one of the disadvantages is that they dry quickly,” she said, laughing. “I like the feel and texture of oil paints. I like the blend of them when I’m making colour, and I like the blend of them on canvas. I’m prepared to wait the time it takes for them to dry.”

She also often incorporates canvas fibres on the top of pieces, using them to expertly and realistically depict the sharpness of dead tree branches or the lushness of vine-like foliage.

Because of the texture of her pieces, they must be viewed at different angles to get a full effect. The goal, she said, is to give people a different sort of art gallery experience.

“I hope they get whatever experience they get from regular oil on canvas pieces but more so,” she said, demonstrating how her textured work changes depending on the viewer’s movement.

Walker Wilson completed a diploma in textile studies at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s, before completing a bachelor of fine arts degrees at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1999. She has shown her work in group exhibitions in this province and Ontario, as well as in solo shows here and in Alberta.

Her first series, “Looking for the Light,” was a 14-piece body of work with a keyhole theme, and some of them are on display at Ultramarine Fine Art Studio, her gallery at 100 Duckworth St. So are pieces from a water-based series, which was originally exhibited at Mount Pearl City Hall in 2010.

Water, in all its forms, is one of Walker Wilson’s favourite and recurring themes, hence the name of her studio.

“Water is so influential. We can’t live without it on a very basic level,” she explains of her fascination. “I like the changeability of water; with light and air movement, it changes in a second. With the freezing and thawing here in Newfoundland — we hate it, but it does create lovely ice and icicles. It’s interesting to me.”

Fascinated by nature, trees are a recurring subject in the studio as well — she has numerous pieces inspired by the woods, from low-growing mushrooms to groups of birch trunks; even the blur of a forest as seen through the window of a fast-moving car.

She works either from photographs or her own imagination, and her work is fairly representational, for the most part, though she adds her own element of the abstract.

“I like to take something from the real environment and then abstract from it,” she explained. “It always has an existing beginning.”

Last year, after having spent years working in a closed studio on Water Street, Walker Wilson decided to do something she had been considering for a while, and opened Ultramarine as a small but sweet and uncluttered public space, combining an art gallery, where her work is displayed and can be purchased, and a studio, where the public is invited to come and watch over her shoulder as she works. People have been interested in her textured textile technique of painting, she said, and although she doesn’t want to give away the details of her entire process (she prepares many of her pieces at home), she has set up a display, giving people a good idea how its done.

Ultramarine’s official one-year anniversary is today, and Walker Wilson is celebrating with a show which will run through to the end of August.

As the studio develops, she’d like to eventually get into doing relief pieces on a larger scale.

“I’m hoping to push the envelope further in terms of three-dimensional work,” she explained. “How that will be remains to be seen.”



Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Anna Templeton Centre

Geographic location: England, Ontario, Alberta Newfoundland Water Street

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