Karin Lauria’s Spiritual Landscapes

Karin Lauria’s beautiful paintings are the subject of this gallery, Spiritual Landscapes.

Lauria is a brilliant digital artist known for her colourist abstracts. For colourists, the hue, saturations, texture and composition of colour are the dominant elements of their paintings. Colour’s emotional expression in its many forms is balanced with and frequently overcomes a paintings representational quality. Lauria’s abstracts lean strongly in this direction, and only suggest the reality of form in an explosion of colour. In this she is very much like the Fauvists of the early twentieth century. To do so, she uses the layering functions of a graphics tablet and GIMP to combine broad swaths of color with subtle elements of underlying texture associated with more painterly traditions of art. She is particularly skilled at combining geometric shapes to suggest organic forms, such as trees, fields, mountains and moonlight. Her use of blending, saturation and hue suggest movement, growth and life, so that these landscapes shimmer in cultural and ecological vitality.

Colourism itself is rooted in the post-impressionist teachings Gustave Moreau. Moreau was the inspirational professor of Henri Matisse at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the 1890s. Matisse and others combined the emphasis Moreau gave to colour with other diverse influences (e.g., African sculpture, pre-renaissance painting, representational landscapes, animal art) to form a loose association of styles.

320px Rousseau Hungry LionThe school of Fauvism itself sprung to life then quickly faded in the first decade of the twentieth century. French critics pejoratively termed colourist artists “les Fauves” (the wild beasts) for breaking with artistic conventions. The presence of Henri Rousseau’s The Hungry Lion Throws itself on the Antelope (1905) at one of the showings may have been the source of this barb. The epithet is perhaps another instance of the snobbery regarding animal art. While the fauvists soon moved on to experiment with other styles, the colorist sensibilities of Fauvism lived on in other forms, particularly Scottish colourism and American color field painting. To my eye, I see it in the landscapes of Canada’s Group of Seven too.

An additional influence in Lauria’s art is her training in theology. She attended and earned top honours in philosophy, theology and ethics at Boston University’s School of Theology (the alma mater of M.L. King). While not a practicing Christian, she fell in love with the Old Testament and the landscapes which play so central a role in biblical stories. Most of the abstracts in these galleries are of biblical landscapes, juxtaposed with landscapes that feature prominently in more animist and pagan traditions. To appreciate the role of landscape in the Hebraic and other cultures of the time, one has to step far beyond the current moral-political dogmas about who “owns” the land of ancient Palestine. Instead, the genesis, both literally and figuratively, of the Hebrew peoples (and three great world religions) is deeply rooted in nature and place. See Ted Hiebert’s book, The Yahwist’s Landscape (1996) for a beautiful rendition of this thesis.

Like the digital art of Catherine MacIntyre in the Embodied Natures gallery, relax and take your time with Lauria’s work. A gentle and unfocused gaze often allows the imagery and your imagination to interpret the form and meaning of this work.


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