He stands at the table, quiet all around, not even the glint of Kalamalka Lake lying below disturbs the task at hand.
His canvas is laid flat in front of him. There is no sketch or photo to go by, just the faint acrid smell of the acrylic gels that are squirted out like melted candies.
There are no preconceived ideas or notions. The slate is blank in his head as much as it is on the canvas. The colours are all laid out on the table, and whatever “pops out” makes its way to the surface.
From one end of the canvas to the other, the brush leaves its brilliant lines in gold, red, black, layer over layer, like beams of light emitting from the sun.
Sometimes the painting is left, for weeks, years, before it is painted over again.
Jon Allan Landahl has been following his intuition ever since he picked up a paintbrush.
Of Jewish, German and Latin descent, he was born and raised in the city of Maracay, Venezuela.
Influenced by his artist mother, who gifted him an oil painting set when he was about eight years old, Landahl developed his talent taking an art class with an accomplished artist in his hometown.
“I was not a sports person. I would instead go to painting class and come home head-to-toe covered in oil paint. My parents never complained. They just bought me more supplies,” he said.
Even as a young boy, Landahl’s work stood out. He was not interested in painting trees and landscapes like the other children, instead he tended to paint more intuitively, straying away from the realistic.
“I learned to paint shadows and in layers, I never thought I would do representational,” he said.
In 1987, Landahl visited Canada for the first time when he came as an exchange student to attend Mission Senior Secondary School in the Lower Mainland.
The move from Maracay, with its population in the hundreds of thousands, to the small city of Mission, which then had a population of around 5,000, was an adjustment, said Landahl.
“I was in a rural area living with a family and remember stepping out of the house, and wondering ‘what’s that smell?’”
The exchange would prove to be life changing.
“I loved Canada. I thought ‘wow, this could be my home.’”
Upon returning to Venezuela, Landahl studied tourism management, and took his love of travel to new destinations working for a Canadian tour operator.
Eventually his job would bring him to Toronto and then to Ottawa, where he worked in marketing, all the while immersing himself in culture, with regular visits to the National Gallery and Arts Centre.
“Every great thing that came to Canada, came to Ottawa,” he said.
It was while working in fundraising in Vancouver that Landahl would meet the love of his life. The problem is he had just taken a job in Toronto, and so started commuting back and forth from Ontario to B.C.
During his time with work and travelling, Landahl put painting aside.
“For 20 years, I didn’t pick up a brush. I was concentrating on my career, building a life, travelling the world, and falling in love,” he said. “There were times where I didn’t know where I was, I was moving so often.”
It was art – and love – that helped Landahl return to some stability in his life.
While on a walk from his Toronto apartment near Lake Ontario to his office at Spadina and Queen Street West, Landahl passed an art supply store.
“It was like it was calling me. One day, I decided to go inside. At that time I had no artwork on the walls. I had nothing. I didn’t want to buy art and I didn’t want reproductions as I feel the energy of the author/artist is missing. I thought I will make my own paintings,” he said. “I went crazy, literally. My first painting is so different. People didn’t know what to think of it. I received a good reaction.”
It was around this time that Landahl moved back to B.C. and settled in Vernon, where his partner, now husband, is from.
The two recently adopted a daughter and make their home on Middleton Mountain.
Landahl soon made his mark on the local art scene by becoming a trustee on the Vernon Public Art Gallery board and joining the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan as well as the Federation of Canadian Artists.
He also showed his work, with both group and solo exhibitions at the Armstrong Spallumcheen Art Gallery, the Kelowna Art Gallery, and Nadine’s Fine Art and Frames in Vernon, and donated works to Midsummer’s Eve of the Arts in support of the VPAG.
Landahl’s biggest exhibition to date was when he showed 21 paintings at the Kelowna Community Theatre and Kelowna library in 2010.
He painted his first canvas here after visiting Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna, and then did another one of Middleton Mountain, at an angle of the moon ascending in the sky.
“People who came to the house liked them, but I was not happy,” said Landahl. “It was not what I wanted out of me.”
That’s when he turned to what most would consider abstract, with bold colours (Landahl loves using metallic paints) and intricate patterns, made by the use of Gesso (a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, and pigment) and heavy gels to give the work a textured feel.
“People always want to touch my paintings… I also love creating movement. I don’t like it when my painting looks static. Without movement there is no evolution, no life.”
Landahl says his work is also an expression of something deeper – his soul.
“People used to tell me what to paint, what colours, what was the trend, and I said ‘to heck with everything,’ I thought I will paint how I feel. I cannot be a true artist if I am doing just what sells. You’re not being true to yourself.”
To this end, Landahl used to not title his work, but lately he has been naming his pieces.
“Someone very spiritual was looking at my paintings and she was seeing things in them that I hadn’t. I started naming them to let other people know what was happening to me in my head when I was painting them.”
Recently recovering from back surgery, where he wasn’t able to paint for a time, Landahl has come back full force, gaining the attention of interior designers interested in his paintings. In the fall, he met with an art management agency in New York who plan to market his art to international destinations.
“I am very humbled by the opportunity. I want people to see there are outlets out there to express ourselves,” said Landahl, who is also interested in the principles of art therapy. “If art allows you a means to let go – fear, anger, or to rid yourselves of suffering– it’s one step in the right direction.”
Visit jonallanlandahl.com for more info.