Living Systems, 2005

October 6-22, 2005
Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver

Press release

Judith Currelly once wrote: “Painting is my way of trying to comprehend and come to grips with the nature and meaning of existence.” From the distance of a pilot over the past 30 years, she has observed the landscape patterns of remote northern regions — the Yukon, Alaska, northern British Columbia and Ontario. Her flights far above the land and her passion for biology and the intricacies of nature infuse her semi-abstract paintings with a mystic reality.

In Living Systems, Currelly explores the interrelated conditions, patterns and structures that occur between land, sky, water and lifeforms. Painted with humility and vision, the images feel warm and welcoming rather than cold and distant. She captures the delicate hues and subtle textures of ice flows, northern lakes, tundra and boreal forests, and the simple forms of animals and birds inhabiting these isolated areas. Her complex images pay tribute to the dynamic interplay of living systems, from the tiniest ecosystems to the nested hierarchies of air, land, water and living creatures.

Judith Currelly was born in Toronto and studied at the Ontario College of Art. She attended graduate courses in Fine Art at the University of Victoria. She earned her commercial pilot’s license in 1976 and spent years flying a tiny two-seater bush plane surveying bears, wolves and caribou in the Arctic. Currelly continues to fly her Piper Supercruiser during the months she spends in her studio in the Yukon and spends her winter months working in the Gulf Islands.

From the current issue of Galleries West by Erling Friis-Baastad:

Judith Currelly earned her pilot’s license because flying was the only way the young Ontario painter could reach her new cabin on Frances Lake in the Yukon. Over the three decades since, however, “Flying has meant way more to me than I could have possibly imagined,” says the artist, who now divides her time between British Columbia’s Gulf Islands and the small northern mining town of Atlin. Ice floes, tundra and boreal forest, as seen from the windows of her Piper Supercruiser, have infused her first love, art. While sharing the view with ravens and hawks, or after landing in wilderness regions few people are privileged to see, Currelly has undertaken an extensive study of “the patterns and structures that occur in nature.” Consequently, the oil-on-board works of her new show, Living Systems, are not landscapes so much as they are about landscape, she says. These paintings continue the quest she began as a child, to explore her “enthrallment” to the natural world. “My motivation will be the same until I die,” she adds.

Artist statement

I would describe my paintings as being about the land I know. They are an intensely personal response to the places that make my soul sing, laugh,and cry; places that help me find meaning and accept the mysteries in life.

Relationship to place has been a powerful part of the human experience from the beginning of time. It is this rather than any specific landscape that I want the paintings to convey.