True pioneers of the Canadian art scene, the Group of Seven were extraordinary landscape painters who collaborated together from 1920 to 1931.
Three more artists joined in later years and two other artists, B.C.’s very own Emily Carr and Tom Thompson who inspired the group to focus on Canada’s unique natural landscape but died young, were closely associated to the group.
There are also seven contemporary Shuswap artists who have achieved significant recognition, although they do not all collaborate as the original group did.
Now a widely acclaimed Calgary-based artist, Chris Cran was raised on a small farm on the outskirts of Salmon Arm, where he was encouraged to take up painting by another highly respected Shuswap artist, Herald Nix. Defying most labels, Cran’s work was described by the New York Times as “tampering with people’s perceptions.” In 2016, the National Gallery of Canada hosted an exhibit of his works entitled “Chris Cran, Sincerely Yours,” and the gallery has more than 20 of his paintings in its collection.
Born in Victoria in 1934, Ann Kipling is a well-recognized artist who lived for many years in Falkland and has had numerous shows in the Lower Mainland. Many of her drawings that can also include watercolour washes or gauche, are produced en plein air and combine elements of realism and abstraction, with some resembling Chinese landscape art.
When one of Shuswap’s best-known artists, Steve Mennie, went to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto he found that he had already been exposed to many of the key principles thanks to his high school art teacher, Miss Hoadley. For much of his career, Mennie focused on realism, with subjects that ranged from local landscapes to figurative to street signs and furniture, many with a touch of humour added. He is also an accomplished serigraph print maker and for the last two decades he has added non-figurative paintings to his repertoire, with many of his works hanging in local landmarks including the Salmon Arm city hall.
The Salmon Arm Art Centre’s artist-in-residence, Lisa Figueroa, works full-time as an artist and her vivid, colourful, stylized paintings that include landscapes, florals, nudes, wildlife and abstracts have been shown in galleries throughout the province. She explains how visual art begins with developing an ability to see the magic in the world and then capturing that moment on canvas so that magic becomes apparent and pleasurable to the viewer.
In addition to her work as an architectural designer, Linda Franklin is an outstanding artist who grew up in the shadow of Mt. Ida in a family of landscape painters. Her paintings explore many aspects of life in the Shuswap using bold colours and imaginative designs.
After studying painting and filmmaking at the University of Lethbridge, Tracey Kutschker and her sculptor husband Eric moved to the Shuswap in 1995. In addition to her work as the director/curator of the Salmon Arm Art Centre, she has become well known for her colourful, whimsical paintings of homes, cabins and viewscapes.
Just as the Group of Seven often collaborated on shows and shared a working space at their Toronto Studio built by Lawren Harris, thanks to his Massey-Harris farm machinery fortune, Figueroa, Franklin and Kutschker often work and show together as Lazuline. The three artists have become well known throughout the province for their triptychs depicting the exceptionally stunning landscapes of British Columbia.
The multi-talented Herald Nix, aka John Wood, is both an acclaimed rockabilly musician and a visual artist whose oil paintings can be found in B.C. and Alberta galleries, as well as in Los Angeles. His 2016 Headbones Gallery in Vernon show entitled “the Long View,” featured a series of paintings of one view of Shuswap Lake as it changed throughout the year, shifting in weather, light and mood.
There are many more exceptional Shuswap artists, some of whom will be featured in the next column.