A package of childhood photographs inspired Wells artist Caroline Anders to create her most recent collection of paintings, now showing at the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake.
Anders grew up in Ontario, near Sudbury, spending the first seven years of her life on a small hobby farm in Chelmsford.
“I was always creative,” she said. “I wasn’t creating bodies of work for shows or anything professional, but I was always making things and painting here and there.”
That was until she started to delve into oil painting.
“I like to paint at the school or in my house studio,” she said, adding her home studio isn’t very big, but does the trick.
Her paintings are developed in the first half hour of creating them. The beginning stages are “frantic” she described.
After an intense painting session, she returns to add three or four layers. She adds and takes away to develop the images more acutely.
“It’s really difficult for me to explain solely what my work is because a lot of it comes from a place I don’t really know about that I’m still discovering. It comes out of me and the images are there.”
When asked if it’s quiet while she’s painting, Anders shakes her head and says, “no, it’s pretty manic.”
The idea for a painting will begin to brew inside and reach a point where she has no choice but to put it on the canvass.
And most often, big strokes and bold colours will tumble out immediately.
“Maybe the images aren’t there, but the composition is. I know where things are going to go. I usually start from the top left and work down. It can vary, but the process is probably easier to explain than the actual art,” she suggested. “It’s still a big journey to understand why and how it emerges. My work is quite contemporary. Sometimes it’s hard to explain and I don’t get it at the time.”
Anders is connected to and intimate with her paintings, she said.
“Maybe sometimes I don’t think people are going to see what I see in the details or the tiniest stroke or something pushed.”
Standing next to a painting titled Chelmsford during the show’s opening, she said the piece is an exploration of the landscape where she grew up.
The theme of the show reflects the feelings she had living on the farm.
“It was a good time, but it wasn’t a great time,” she said. “There was loss and family things and even though I was only seven, I realized then there were things I couldn’t talk to anyone about.”
Creating the paintings helped though.
“Receiving the photographs from my mom was like getting a time capsule. The photographs really inspired me.”
Typically she does not paint from photographs. Instead she creates from her mind or what she sees.
“But a few of these paintings I actually painted directly from the photographs in my own way and they turned out the way they did,” she shrugged.
The whole collection is meant to be shown together. They relate to a time in her life and how she feels looking back on that time as an adult.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said.
Looming large in her memories are numerous hydro poles always present in the forefront and on the horizon, dotting the rocky landscape.
“That’s why you can see all those lines throughout the painting,” she said, pointing to the Chelmsford piece.
Anders began creating the collection in 2011 during the Toni Onley Artist’s Project, a mentorship program at Island Mountain Arts in Wells. As many as 20 artists and two mentors will paint for eight days, she explained.
“I started developing the concept for this body of work, which I was intending on doing prior to that, but I work really well under pressure,” she said. “I was pumping them out really really quickly and the mentors noticed a pattern and were kind enough to select me to exhibit in a Penticton Art Gallery.”
From August until Christmas 2011, she focused on the works, painting steadily, until they were taken to be shown for two months in early 2012.
In November 2012 she returned to Ontario for the first time in several years and had the opportunity to visit the farm.
“It was pretty emotional, but creating these paintings and then going there was a huge release. I feel kind of finished with it in a way and I feel comfortable with it.”
Pausing she said it’s not only about the journey of creating, but it’s about being a person and trying to understand yourself, the world, things and everything around.
“I feel lucky I can paint,” she said. “That I can use this as a tool if I want to express my joy, my angst, and my experiences of being alive.”
A decade ago, she was wooed to the west by a chamber maid job at a lodge on Bowron Lakes.
“I wanted to get out of Ontario, found this area on the internet, stumbled here and never looked back,” she said.
The exhibit runs at the Station House Gallery until the end of March.