Art exhibit to showcase northern landscapes

Matt Gardner
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Various Saskatchewan locales, including some near Prince Albert, are among the subjects of dozens of landscape paintings to be featured at an upcoming art exhibit.

Appropriately titled Northern Landscapes, the exhibit takes place from Aug. 16-30 at the Black Spruce Gallery and features the work of five Canadian landscape painters -- Greg Hargarten, Cam Forrester, Paul Trottier, Roger Trottier and Ken Van Rees -- collectively known as the Men Who Paint.

“We plan three or four painting excursions every year and we’re based in Saskatoon, so a lot of our excursions are in Saskatchewan,” Hargarten said.

“We really try to paint in that northern boreal forest at least once a year. In the spring this year in fact, in March, we were at P.A. National Park painting and (at) Christopher Lake and Emma Lake, sitting in the snow out there.”

The artists themselves kick off the two-week exhibit on Friday, Aug. 16 with a special reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to meet each painter and discuss the works on display.

Further underscoring their local connections, the group members originally met at the University of Saskatchewan’s Kenderdine Campus at Emma Lake.

A year later, they formed the Men Who Paint as a vehicle to pursue their mutual interest in plein air painting -- derived from the French term en plein air, or “in the open air” -- which refers to painting outdoors.

Hargarten noted that not all landscape painters paint outdoors.

“There’s a difference, because a lot of landscape painters paint from photographs or would paint in their studio,” he said.

“Our group was kind of founded on painting outdoors. A lot of plein air painters, when they paint outdoors, paint really small. We mix it up. We paint some large paintings -- even three feet by four feet -- outside.”

Among the biggest influences on the Men Who Paint are legendary Canadian artist Tom Thomson and the landscape painter collective known as the Group of Seven.

“The Group of Seven has really sort of inspired us,” Hargarten said. “They did most of their painting outside as well. They were real men -- they hiked around and painted outside.”

The Men Who Paint have followed the lead of their forbears by travelling around the country in pursuit of picturesque landscapes to paint.

Aside from Saskatchewan locations such as P.A. National Park, Emma Lake and Cypress Hills, the group has followed its muse to places ranging from Banff National Park to Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

We plan three or four painting excursions every year and we’re based in Saskatoon, so a lot of our excursions are in Saskatchewan. Greg Hargarten

Perhaps their most adventurous expedition was a trip to Ivvavik National Park in the Yukon. Parks Canada flew the group in after inviting them to paint there.

“We stayed there for 10 days and hiked around and painted,” Hargarten said. “They had a helicopter there because there was some geologist doing studies on the rock up there, so they flew us up to the Beaufort Sea by helicopter one day and to the peak of another mountain to paint, which was great.

“Most of the days we had like a two or three-hour hike to get to the places we were painting.”

Many of the works produced during their Yukon trip ended up in the permanent collection of Parks Canada. Some made it into the book Halfway to Heaven, while others are expected to appear at the Northern Landscapes exhibit.

The Men Who Paint also have a substantial presence at the Mann Art Gallery, with each member being able to point to at least one piece in the permanent collection.

Though the group has been involved with the gallery for the last five years as part of the Winter Festival, last year stood out as three of their members -- Paul Trottier, Hargarten and Ken Van Rees -- took the top three spots in the festival’s juried art show.

“We were absolutely flabbergasted,” Hargarten said. “And it was funny because the adjudicator had no idea that we painted together, that we were a group. That was really cool.”

Visitors to the Northern Lights exhibit will be able to judge the group’s impressionist-influenced landscapes for themselves.

Hargarten noted the powerful effect that painting outdoors can have on an artist’s work.

“There’s more to a place than how it looks,” he said. “There’s a feeling that’s involved with the place, and when you’re sitting out there, you really get that feeling I think.

“You’re surrounded by not only the view, but also the wildlife that’s there, the insects that are there, the wind and the changing landscape that’s in front of you. I think it really helps you, hopefully, capture the essence of the place better than a photograph would.”

Organizations: Black Spruce Gallery, Group of Seven, University of Saskatchewan Parks Canada Mann Art Gallery

Geographic location: Emma Lake, Saskatchewan, P.A. National Park Saskatoon Christopher Lake Yukon Banff National Park Ontario Algonquin Park Ivvavik National Park Beaufort Sea

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Recent comments

  • Marsha Day
    August 06, 2013 - 13:11

    Excellent article, Matt Gardener. I first saw work by these 3 gentlemen when I was also studying painting at Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus, five years ago. Since then I have followed their progress and have written a review about their work for our local Star Phoenix. They are a force, representing the visual power of our unrelenting landscape, and they do it justice, in spades! But to the point: it is reassuring to see an article about the visual arts - a much ignored 'rare species' - in a daily newspaper, and I commend you for bringing this exciting medium to the attention of your readership. Inspiring. The part of the world where these guys paint is our back yard, and attracts thousands every year. No wonder! But it is their talent to capture it that gives me pause. Thanks again for doing this story, Marsha day