A Sense of Place for a staple on the Okanagan art scene

Jane Everett lifts up one of 12 images of the resilient Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Juncos from her backyard, which she features in her new show A Sense of Place, along with a thirteenth image of a bird found dying on the driveway. - Jennifer Smith
Jane Everett lifts up one of 12 images of the resilient Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Juncos from her backyard, which she features in her new show A Sense of Place, along with a thirteenth image of a bird found dying on the driveway.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

Look out in the backyard. Do you see a kaleidoscope of colour? The majestic presence of a ponderosa pine? The deep blue of the Okanagan hillside? Life, death and personality?

This is the world local artist Jane Everett invites us into with her first local solo show in seven years. Developed at her Shuswap cottage and in her Lower Mission backyard, it includes a series of 13 small birds, drawn in charcoal on vellum paper in a technique she’s honed in the last few years of her career, and a series of Japanese-inspire ink paintings on rice paper.

Titled A Sense of Place, this is work about the world she sees every day, an area she moved to for her husband’s work and has come to feel is home.

“I love light,” she says. “I love the water, what that does. How it lowers the inhibitions.”

When she talks about each piece, she talks of adoration, of celebrating each creature and the presence of the boughs that define her space.

“To me, the little birds are a symbol of survival and courage. To stay here in our backyard through our winter…I mean, there’s just nothing to them,” she says.

While the work is current, and has the immediacy of a sketch one can do when the subject matter is right out the window, the impetus for bird drawings, and the portrait style she’s chosen, has been in her studio for a decade.

Hanging beside the door as one enters the attic space on the second floor is Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch, a small painting done in 1654 of a little kept bird fastened to a backyard feeder with a chain on its foot.

The painting is quite unique for the time, both for its relatively mundane subject matter and for the manner in which the painter treats his subject, as a unique individual.

“Dutch artists, they would paint things to show their clients were very wealthy, so there would be grapes and wine and golden goblets; but this humble little bird on the backyard feeder, that’s a very unusual sort of thing,” says Everett.

It was the chain on its foot that caught Everett’s attention. Acting in a similar way to the cage we might place a canary in today, it bothered the artist enough she soon had a small series in which Fabritius’s finch is set free. The sketches of her own backyard birds followed.

The last time the Capital News interviewed Everett, she was working on a series of vellum and charcoal drawings of the Port Mann Bridge in the Lower Mainland and she’s carried this mix of materials over to the birds.

The trees that will show with the 13-drawing series of these creatures use a similarly translucent material, though the inspiration for this set is quite new.

“A friend came back with a catalogue from an exhibition she had seen in Japan and I was just knocked out by this pen-and-ink work,” said Everett.

Choosing the lodgepole and ponderosa pines around her cottage in the Shuswap as subjects, she worked up a series of ink paintings on rice paper and used her old stretchers to build five lanterns.

“The rice paper seems to almost enlarge it and spread it on,” she said.

The paintings, done on-site unlike many of her other works done from photographs, have an unusual way of making one feel quite small in their presence, though each lantern is only three or four feet tall and wide.

A Sense of Place will show just a few kilometres from Everett’s house at Tantalus Vineyards, 1670 DeHart Rd., from March 23 to April 12. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, April 5 from 6 to  9 p.m.


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