See the landscapes of the Cariboo like never before this month in the Station House’s Upper Gallery show Fraser River Encaustics.
A mixed media exhibit, Fraser River Encaustics is made up of a series of vivid high-quality photos enhanced via the use of beeswax and delicate carving. This gives the images a 3D and at times life-like quality, transforming everyday Cariboo sights into grand masterpieces.
This show was put together by Rick Blacklaws and Gary Kennedy, though the majority of the works on display was created by Blacklaws. Both a trained photographer and an archaeologist, Blacklaws said he primarily enjoys working in the realm of interpretation with his art and has been taking photos in the Cariboo for the last 30 years.
A White Rock resident, Blacklaws has published several photo books with his wife about the Cariboo that are often for sale at the Station House year-round.
“I think in one breath it can be jokingly said photography is a poor man’s painter. If you can’t paint then take photographs. I think there is a vehicle there,” Blacklaws said. “Photography, when you do get into it, it’s a beautiful, beautiful discipline and I just enjoy it.”
At this point in his career, Blacklaws said he was looking to add something like a new dimension to his photography. Five years ago he met a metal encaustic worker, which is more traditional who showed him examples of his craft. Encaustic is an old Greek word that means to paint with beeswax and is one of the oldest methods of painting in the world where they melt the wax, colour it and then paint with it.
“I’ve sort of taken the encaustic idea and applied it to my photographs. I put maybe five layers of wax onto a photograph and then I carve into that wax with a variety of knives and scrapers,” Blacklaws said. “I also add to a photograph with coloured wax, I can add some oil to some clear wax and get my colours. Encaustics to a photograph adds texture and dimension, it’s a bit of a novelty because people don’t quite understand what they’re looking at.”
The mix of photography and painting makes people stop and really examine his pieces, Blacklaws said. The encaustic aspect of his work has also helped him pursue his interpretation angle as he highlights and enhances each piece beyond what is possible with pure photography.
As far as an overall message for the show goes, Blacklaws said all the pieces were taken within 40 to 50 miles away from Williams Lake. He hopes that people while viewing his show will interpret these potentially familiar landscapes in new ways. For fellow photographers, he wished to demonstrate that working in new dimensions with photography is possible with a little creativity.
Blacklaws also wanted to highlight the importance of the Station House as an art gallery, the building itself celebrating 100 years of existence this year, and how it attracts artists to the Cariboo. Artists have been working in the Cariboo Chilcotin for 50 years, he said, and without a place to show their material, he said they’d move on to show their works in galleries in Montreal and Vancouver.
He also encourages everyone to go out for walks in nature to see these world class landscapes for themselves as Canada is the “land of landscapes” and something we should all treasure.