L-R: Artists Mirja Vahala and  Brigitte Desbois with local painters Roberta Whitfield and Sharon Maxfield.

L-R: Artists Mirja Vahala and Brigitte Desbois with local painters Roberta Whitfield and Sharon Maxfield.

What the eye sees

Studio Connexion was filled last Friday evening with the paintings of Mirja Vahala and Brigitte Desbois.

  • Sep. 10, 2015 7:00 a.m.

christy isbell

Arrow Lakes News

Studio Connexion was filled last Friday evening with the amber palettes and verdant landscape paintings of Mirja Vahala and Brigitte Desbois. Familiar scenery and local landmarks were freshly interpreted in acrylic and oil by these two talented women.

Both Artists are members of the Federation of Canadian Artists. They are prolific in the “Plein Air” style which means In the Open Air, which describes the act of painting outdoors — also called  “Peinture sur le Motif” or “what the eye actually sees.”

The barns and fields of Brouse Loop found new character with deeper dream like acrylic colours while staying true to local geography in Mirja Vahalas panoramic piece titled “Backyard.” The artist tries to paint beyond the representation of a landscape and find the story in its abstraction. She feels this body of work is a culmnination of the last few years painting in Nakusp and above New Denver.

Vahala says, “I try to create the feeling of a place with the stories behind. I sense a spirit everywhere I go…it could be a building or a landscape and I do try to connect into the spirit side of something and if I can do that as an artist, I’m happy.”

Vahala recently returned from Italy where she taught a Plein Air workshop to five Canadian artists. They painted their way through Cinque Terre whose five haphazardly constructed fishing villages date back to the early medieval period with dramatic  cliffside seascapes and shorelines. She also enjoys teaching at her new artist retreat in Balfour and this weekend expects over 17 artists to come and share her space.

The familiar barn at the top of Brouse Loop, owned by Len Gustafson was painted in classic oils by Brigitte Desbois. The local landmark was familiar in structure but depicted in muted nudes and ochre tans that were complemented by the autumn evening light in Studio Connexion.

Desbois is from Montreal but grew up in London and Paris and enjoyed touring the galleries and museums of Europe. Desbois remembers one of her first painting classes she undertook with a sports injury that one would assume would be tennis but in fact was baseball. She felt she still learned technique even though she could only paint with her left hand.

Desbois was invited to do a solo show at Studio Connexion in 2012 with great success and community support… with enough interest she will lead a Plein Air workshop in the spring in Nakusp. She feels she could paint here forever with the spectacular viewpoints and changing weather. She says of painting along the Nakusp waterfront, “Having the beaches of Nakusp so close, I don’t see why you would explore, although I’ve heard of amazing waterfalls and I’m sure I will find many places on my return trips. With such a pool of ideas and beautiful scenery so close, why waste time searching for the perfect spot?”

Anne Beliveau, curator and owner of Studio Connexion welcomed patrons with an abundance of prosciutto, herb boursin, pate, baguette, grapes, olives, oysters and handcrafted artisan chocolate from Jennifer Chocolate.

The show runs until September 19. The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment by calling 250-265-3586 or 250-265-8888.

Vahala will return to Nakusp Sept. 18-20 to teach a painting class, “Paint in the great Outdoors.” For more information and to pre-register call Selkirk College at 250-265-4077 or email nakuspspce@selkirk.ca.