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Large canvases covering large issues next show at Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery

Diane White borders her portrayals of the beauty in Canadian wilderness with environmental warnings to show the flip side of Canada’s natural world.  - Diane White
Diane White borders her portrayals of the beauty in Canadian wilderness with environmental warnings to show the flip side of Canada’s natural world.
— image credit: Diane White

Rolling hills, lush trees, majestic mountains, rivers traced in green water and white foam—British Columbia is famous for the beauty of its natural landscape.

But the next exhibit hitting the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery shows the flip side of that beauty—the struggle to protect the natural world from development and damage.

The gallery will display paintings from Victoria artist Diane White who mixes the beauty of the Canadian wilderness with the ugliness that comes part and parcel with clear-cutting and oil extraction.

“There are absolutely beautiful landscapes out there, and I don’t want people to forget that,” says artist Diane White. “I want them to be encouraged. I want them to go out and just visually and emotionally experience this beautiful land that we live on. But I also want them to understand that there are other forces out there.

“Water is under serious, serious threat.”

The series is titled H20 Under Attack, named for a central piece 12-feet wide and almost five feet tall. It’s one of the largest pieces to ever be displayed in the gallery, and organizers had to swap venues to accommodate it—moving from the Chilliwack Museum to the Chilliwack Visual Artists’ Association (CVAA) space while still in the planning stages.

“The scale of it is very large,” says CVAA president Judy Hurley. “It’s good that we have nice high walls in the gallery.”

But as White notes, a large canvas is fitting for such a large issue.

Her pieces depict gorgeous mountains, trees and water—tranquil pastoral images at first glance. The clash between natural and economic worlds is clearer in the title piece, which features a dripping cutaway of a pipeline to one side and the pipeline route traced in red at the top of the image.

Her other pieces feature stencilled environmental warnings traced over the natural imagery or bordering the edges: “Oil and water don’t mix,” “Crisis of quality and supply,” “H2O under attack.”

“Water is the life source of us, and the animals, and mother earth,” she says. “We have to remember that when we’re out there, and we have to stand up for it.”

White uses the Alberta tarsands and the proposed Enbridge pipeline as extreme examples of the harm people do to the earth—and says its up to everyday citizens to stand up for the water and the forests around them.

“We have to go out there and stop it ourselves,” she says. “We have to grab it; we have to protect it.

“I understand we’re an oil-based economy, but I think things can change,” she concludes.

And looking at her art—filled with mossy branches and pristine lakes—it isn’t hard to see the world she imagines for the future.

• H20 Under Attack  opens on Saturday, Aug. 2, with a reception from 1 to 3 p.m., and is on display at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery until Sept. 13. Gallery hours run Wednesday to Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on show evenings. Admission is free to the public.

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