Landscape artist inspired by the North

Joan Sullivan
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Perhaps Northern landscapes are by their very nature elemental. The formations and vistas are basic and often huge, sheer big lines and no frills. Without the dressage of, say, much in the way of a field of poppies or even of grass and such, these views are all sheer honed planes and geological bone structure. Which is not to say that some visual artists don’t find it gorgeous, and render it richly, and even with a sense of lushness.

Christine Koch has been inspired by the North for much of her career, as is evident in her new solo exhibition, “Landscape Dreaming: Rock, Fire, Ice,” which includes 20 prints and paintings. The title neatly underscores the ambiance of the works. This is a landscape scoured to its foundations, yet there is a reverie to it, even a mysticism.

“Voice of Fire I — Torngats VE1” (mixed media linocut, 2014) is a mountain riven with a living red, a substratal pulse behind a dotted veil of snowflakes or stars, held in crisp suspension like diamonds. Two other “Voice of Fire” pieces (handwork linocut, 2014) build out a 360-degree view of this sight, which has a presence like Earth’s own heartbeat.

Another series builds on its title of “Nocturne,” eight acrylic on panel or paper works, all 2014. They include “Across the Lake (Kluane),” “Bonne Bay II,” and “Trout River Pond.” They play with compositions of darkening landscapes against a crepuscular sky, at a time just over the edge of magic hour where the rock, water, and air seem to hold the same depth of materialism, or reality (again, like a dream). The skies and water are deep velvet blue (with “Fluvial Plateau” the exception, undulating in pink), and the land black. The colours are lovely enough, but what really animates the pieces are the scrims of hovering lights, arrayed like star charts. They both hush and elevate the panoramas, as their physical quiescence seems to pause and hold time itself.

At the same time, the works have a vitality and breathe. “Iceberg Dreaming II” (linocut print on prepared paper, 2014) shows a large berg floating with a checkerboard sea of water and growlers, underneath speckled swirls of light. “Labrador Rockface — Anorthosite Wall” (linocut print, 2014) is a figurative body arch of rock etched and crumbled by deep time. “Shining Mountains” (linocut print, 2014) has a similar configuration, now in an effusing, almost otherworldly, blue. And the imagery in “On the Glacier” (mixed media, 2014) almost pours out of the frame. There is movement in the very configurations.

These are works of distillations, essences. These landscapes are remote; relatively few people see them. As environments, they are spare. But even as the subject matter is pared down and isolated, floating in its own world, it is permeated and imbued with a potent magic, one sprackle at a time.

“Landscape Dreaming: Rock, Fire, Ice” continues at the Christina Parker Gallery until July 12.

Geographic location: Bonne Bay

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