Waterways, 2010

November 4-27, 2010
Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver

Press release

Diane Farris Gallery is pleased to present Waterways, a new series of paintings by B.C. artist Judith Currelly. Currelly earned her commercial pilot’s license in 1976. She has since spent many years flying her tiny two-seater bush plane surveying bears, wolves and caribou in the Canadian Arctic. As a floatplane pilot, reading the water is an essential skill. In Waterways, Currelly draws from this unique perspective of observing and experiencing water.

Currelly portrays the cold northern ocean, rivers and lakes through images that capture both the negative and positive shapes of the many islands, winding inlets, coastal contours and shimmering expanses of surface. Throughout the series, the artist’s fascination, respect and gratitude for this precious resource are unmistakable. Several paintings are designed in her trademark grid-like structure. The grids allow viewers to experience the push and pull of the organic shapes and her glowing colours. Other works resemble environmental narratives with the incorporation of trees, root structures, and grazing or roaming wildlife. The paintings have an abstract sensibility but they resonate with the reality of the artist’s lived experience and her keen eye for composition.

Artist statement

Humanity, despite all its amazing accomplishments, artistic pretensions and sophistication owes its existences to six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains. Anonymous

This series of paintings comes from my relationship with water. I have lived most of my life near water; the Ganaraska River and Lake Ontario as a child; later Frances Lake and Tussles Lake in the Yukon; now Atlin Lake and the Salish Sea.

As a floatplane pilot, learning to read the water is an essential skill. It is important to be able to look at a lake, river or ocean and recognize whether it is safe for landing: is it long enough; deep enough; what is the speed of the current; size of the waves; direction of the wind? This perspective has given me a good opportunity to observe and experience water.

I have followed streams as they tumble down mountainsides from their sources in snow-filled cirques: watched as they meandered through wide valleys to join huge river systems like the Mackenzie; seen them divide again into the hundreds of little channels of the Delta before finally reaching the Arctic Ocean. I have witnessed massive chunks of glacier ice crashing into Otto Fiord on Ellesmere Island sending sprays of light and water 100 feet in the air, have flown over a grey and angry ocean east of Baffin Island and have landed on tiny mirrors on the tundra.

Closer to home, the Llewellyn Glacier, which has a huge influence on the environment around Atlin, has been a constant source of inspiration and fascination. I have been flying over it for 35 years and have camped beside it, melted its ice for tea, climbed on it and been inside its deep blue crevasses. The two lakes at its base have doubled in size since I first saw them and the braided channels of the rivers have carved many new patterns on the glacial flats. These glacial rivers are the main source of water for Atlin Lake. Every time I pump water into the holding tank in my house I am aware of where it comes from and of how lucky I am that it is so plentiful, clean and drinkable.

We all need water to live. I need water to look at, touch, listen to, land on, and float on.

Judith Currelly, October, 2010