Edmonton is rich with architectural history, and Aeris Osborne is painting the town through her eyes.
Osborne moved to Edmonton from Hong Kong in 2007 and was in awe of Edmonton’s old houses. She’d painted historic buildings before on her travels across the world, but felt compelled by Edmonton’s architecture and wanted to honour it. The self-taught artist applied for the Arts Habitat Studio Residency at Marshall McLuhan House and was selected with her pitch called YEG Old Houses.
“I had the idea to do a body of artwork for Edmonton on something that I feel connected to,” says Osborne. “A lot of people like painting new landmarks, but I always loved walking in the older neighbourhoods, and then I saw this opportunity.”
The exhibit features 13 paintings of old houses in neighbourhoods like Highlands, Glenora, Westmount and Garneau. Osborne chose houses that caught her eye and that she felt represented the history of each area, including the Magrath Mansion and Rutherford House.
It was important for Osborne to include houses with a variety of architectural styles such as Tudor Revival, Georgian Revival, Spanish Colonial and Victorian to show the diversity of Edmonton’s architecture. Each painting can take up to two months to complete, depending on the complexity of the house and Osborne’s vision.
“Sometimes early on I go with a certain mood and tone, and then my exploration changes,” says Osborne. “[A painting] could be two weeks into being finished and I don’t get that satisfaction. I like to layer and build up the shades and fine tune it the way that I want.”
The bold impressionist paintings capture the essence of the original houses, while reflecting Osborne’s emotions, personality and style. The vibrant paintings aren’t exact replicas of each house because Osborne’s work is an interpretation. Osborne loves the bright colours of summer, so she incorporated bright pink, orange and yellow skies, and luscious greenery that she felt suited each house.
Part of the fun of the exhibit is looking at the original inspiration photographs Osborne took, which appear next to each acrylic painting, and seeing the contrast of Osborne’s artistic touch. Next to each painting is a placard with the style of house, area it’s located, and a brief history of the house.
The YEG Old Houses exhibit is open Thursday to Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. until September 25. The exhibit is located at 11342 64 St. NW in the McLuhan House Artist Studio Garage — and is free to view.