Wylie: Artist brings the light to Kelowna airport installation

KAG's latest installation at Kelowna International Airport is a suite of five paintings by Coldstream-based artist Heidi Thompson.

OK Sunshine by artist Heidi Thompson at the Kelowna International Airport.

Liz WylieThe current installation of art placed by the Kelowna Art Gallery at our satellite space at the Kelowna International Airport is a suite of five paintings by Coldstream-based artist Heidi Thompson.

Titled OK Sunshine, the piece is intended to embody the feeling and quality of the spectacular light we enjoy in the Okanagan. The panels are each seven feet tall.

Each one is predominantly but not exclusively yellow in colour, and they are abstract in that nothing else is represented in the works.

But they are not empty; they are rich and full, brimming over with exuberance, life—and light. Be sure to check out the edges of Thompson’s canvases that are covered in thick drips of all sorts of colours of paint—they are the kind of give away or footsteps of her working process, which involved many layers of paint. The notion of portraying light—either white or coloured—in art has a long lineage. It has also long been a metaphor in art for knowledge and for illumination, whether of an intellectual or spiritual nature.

Ancient fresco painting did not lend itself well to depicting light as it was such a matte medium, but once oil-on-panel painting developed in Europe in the late Middle Ages, artists were off to the races, and used real gold leaf to reflect light, usually in the area of halos, for example, where it was intended to represent holiness.

Similarly monks in monasteries created medieval book illuminations and used gold leaf to the same end.

Also in the medieval period in Europe as the craft and design of cathedrals evolved, larger and larger wall areas could be given over to stained glass, with its symbolism of divine light and the notion that worshipers could be morally elevated through its contemplation.

In more recent periods of art history some artists have made the study of light and its effects the major focus of their work.

The Dutch master Vermeer comes to mind, as do the etchings of Rembrandt, the paintings of JMW Turner, and in the 20th century, the American painter Edward Hopper.

Beginning in the late 1940s the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko limited his compositional means to floating bars of colour, meant to be viewed in low light settings so that illumination seemed to emanate from his canvases.

And with the advent of new technologies, light became a medium for contemporary artists working with neon tubing for example, or in the hands of artist James Turrell, working with actual sunlight, and how it transforms a space.

It is also interesting to consider the meanings of the word light, which can be just everyday light, or can refer to knowledge, ideas and spiritual states.

We talk about coming into the light, about having finally seen the light, shedding light on a topic, all referring to knowledge and intelligence. Once viewers pass by Thompson’s paintings and through security, perhaps they will be nudged to muse upon some of these notions.

Thompson was born in Vernon and has been living in Coldstream since 1982, where she has worked as an art educator and illustrator.

She was trained in Europe in the 1970s and ‘80s as a painter.

Thompson is the editor of the award-winning book Recapitulation: A Journey, by Sveva Caetani, who was also a Vernon-based artist.

Thompson’s installation OK Sunshine will be up at the Kelowna airport until Nov. 7.


Just Posted

Kelowna families honour the dead by releasing butterflies

The Nicholson matriarchs release 33 butterflies

Carr’s Landing Art Tour showcases local talent

14th annual tour in Lake Country July 28-29 and Aug. 4-5

The Okanagan Croatian Club all smiles after World Cup loss

They say winning second place brought Croatia to the world stage

East Shuswap Road wildfire’s fire line being controlled

Firefighters saved an eagle’s nest and eaglets while controlling fire lines

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Course veterans seize victory in Peach City Classic

The first place titles in this year’s triathlon belonged to returning competitors.

Vernon writers launch online workshop for teens, young adults

Storymakers’ Raise Your Voice workshop seeks to help women writers uncover and use voice

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

Your reviews: John Fogerty rocks the South Okanagan

Photos and reviews from fans in Penticton at John Fogerty’s concert in the SOEC

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read