The Artist: In her 20-year career, painter Arlene Wasylynchuk, a University of Alberta BFA graduate, has weaved nature and landscape throughout her body of work. Whether painting a beloved 30-year-old birch tree that succumbed to disease or Stanley Park devastated by storm, Wasylynchuk says art should be about beauty, yes, but it should also make viewers think about larger issues like their relationship with the earth. “I think, in the urban atmosphere, we tend to disconnect from nature,” she says. Her work has been exhibited at Harcourt House, the Scott Gallery and the Muttart Conservatory. Her newest installation, “Saltus Illuminati,” is currently showing at The Art Gallery of Alberta until January 15.
The Art: Wasylynchuk worked on “Saltus Illuminati” full-time for one year. The installation is made up of 66 Lexan (polycarbonate resin) sheets six- to 12-feet tall, painted with thinned acrylic and then rolled into tubes to symbolize trees in a forest. Some stand vertically, others lie flat. Rather than using brushes, she painted the representational timbers with forest debris − moss, branches and bark − that she collected on an excursion to pine-beetle infested forests around Canmore and Whitecourt. Using forest detritus as a brush gave her paintings an intimate connection to their subject. Each tree, lit from inside by an LED rope light, gives off a soft glow.
The Inspiration: Latin for “the forest illuminated,” “Saltus Illuminati” abstractly shows how pine beetles are destroying trees and whole forests. Wasylynchuk also wanted to take her art in a new direction and create, for her first time, a three-dimensional work as a means of closely emulating the forests. “I tried to get away from that typical photographic scene because, as [artist] David Hockney said; ‘looking at a photograph can be like looking through the eye of a Cyclops.’”