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Wylie: Indelible link
There is something captivating and fascinating in considering an artistic practice that has relied on staying in the same spot for almost 40 years, and making daily drawings of the natural environment there during that spread of time.
The current solo retrospective exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery of drawings by B.C. artist Ann Kipling provides the opportunity to ponder on this. Kipling lives in rural seclusion between Vernon and Kamloops, and on every day possible, draws en plein air up on the hill behind her home. When I asked her once, a few years ago, what it was like to live and work in the same place for all that time, the artist replied: “You get to see the place in depth.”
This show gives Kelowna gallery-goers the chance to see a selection of work from this long sweep of time spent at that same place. It promises to be an intense experience.
Kiplings’ drawings are not easy reads; they are challenging and difficult. In their unique and idiosyncratic method and look, they challenge our sense of how a drawing—or any work of art—functions and how it is that we make meaning from it.
There is no one else working in Kipling’s manner nor with her method, whereby a finished work is actually a record of the artist’s very focused experience while creating it. Elements such as duration and movement, usually restricted to the medium of film, are evident in her work as if by magic.
As our eyes scan her panoramic, elevated views, we can sense the breeze, the movement of the grasses, even gain an inkling of shadows of clouds moving across the landforms. It becomes almost hallucinatory. The artist’s style and approach are linked to her philosophy, in which mindfulness, and an awareness of the interconnectedness of life forms/natural phenomena are important tenets. From the unleashing of her inner energy as she works, Kipling’s drawings are packed with a charge that bursts open for a viewer as we look at each piece.
Ann Kipling was born in Victoria in 1934 and studied at the Vancouver School of Art. She then lived in Richmond, Lynn Valley and Oyama, before moving to her current home in the countryside near Falkland.
Her earliest works completed there are small graphite drawings that are made up from repeated small rounded schemata to render foliage, grasses, etc. In the early 1980s she turned to larger sheets of paper to render trees in the driveway, then later began hiking up the hill that rises behind her house to work with the spreading panorama of the land as it can be seen unfurling from that height, working in changing media: pencil, graphite aquarelle, and pigma pen, for example.
For several years in the 1980s and ’90s the artist worked on series of drawings of individual portraits and explorations of goats that she used to raise. Since 1995 she has focused completely on the landscape, a rather loaded term she does not use, preferring to say “the natural environment.”
Over the years the views Kipling has drawn have continued to change. As with the saying that one cannot dip one’s foot twice in the same river (the water is never the same water), trees have grown up on the open land that had been logged over for ranching, and the area is now much more forested.
In Kipling’s case it has not been so much love of place that has kept her where she is all this time, as the avoiding of the disruption in her work that a decision to move away or travel would engender. The threads that connect an artist’s practice day to day can be so delicate and it can be crushingly frustrating to have these broken on a regular basis. To protect her practice, then, to nourish it and focus on it, Kipling has been decisive in setting her priorities; the result is a congruency between her lived life and her work as an artist.
This is the first solo exhibition of Kipling’s work organized by the Kelowna Art Gallery. As an in-depth look, it is the third in the KAG’s biannual Okanagan Series of major solo shows by local or regional artists.
The show is accompanied by a full-colour catalogue with an excellent text by Vancouver-based writer on art, Robin Laurence, who has a long-time knowledge of Kipling’s work.
The exhibition Ann Kipling: the Falkland Drawings runs at the Kelowna Art Gallery until June 15.