Wednesday, 16 October 2013 15:52

Ken Christopher’s lifelong passion on display at Art Harvest

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Lovers of fine art have a rare opportunity this weekend to visit the Lac Pelletier studio of one of Canada’s most prominent contemporary landscape painters.

Swift Current born artist Ken Christopher is hosting a two-day Art Harvest sales event Oct. 18-19 that will have a wide variety of original paintings on view.
“I’ve got an enormous amount of paintings,” he said. “I have no idea — a hundred at least.”
The idea for the event came about after a friend’s visit to the studio. He then suggested to Christopher to do something with the paintings.
“So, he got the whole thing rolling,” Christopher said.
He has been working as a professional artist since 1977 with numerous exhibitions across Canada and the United States. In addition to landscapes his works include human figures, western and abstract themes.
His works have been selected for prominent Canadian collections, including the Prime Minister of Canada’s Collection, Edmonton Art Gallery, University of Calgary, Canada Council Art Bank in Ottawa and numerous corporate art collections such as Royal Bank and Shell Canada.
He is in his early seventies, but still painting actively and not giving any consideration to retiring from his lifelong passion.
“Well, Picasso didn’t,” he laughed. “Some of them do, but I just get more interested in it all the time.”
His most recent landscapes are scenes from the Qu’Appelle Valley, where he has been visiting an 88-acre piece of land with a buffalo jump since last year.
“It’s a very ancient native camp ground and it’s got 20 or 30 teepee rings going back to before the horse era,” he said. “It’s absolutely magnificent with a spring 20 feet below the lip of the rim. It’s about a 200 foot drop down to the bottom.So just below the rim is this treed spring that’s bubbling and turns into a stream. It’s absolutely magic.”
Before that he completed a series of abstract paintings, called the wave particle series, which were displayed at the Lyric Theatre. Some of these works will be in his studio this weekend.
“They came out of a workshop on consciousness that I did with Victor Vernon Woolf about how consciousness is holodynamically stored in the cells of the body,” he said. “I had this kind of vision as it happened in this whole series of paintings.”
The scope of his work has always been very wide. Some of his earliest abstract paintings, dating back to 1975, are currently in the Salon invitational exhibition at the Art Gallery of Swift Current.
American abstract painter Jackson Pollock was an important influence when Christopher developed his own understanding of the modernist movement. He referred to a statement made by Pollock to explain his own integration of abstract and landscape painting in his art.
“He said ‘I don’t paint nature, I am nature,’” Christopher remarked. “So I’m doing both of them.”
But during the early 1980s, his landscape paintings started to sell well and he did not have time to focus on his abstract art.
“I gradually incorporated some of those abstract ideas into the landscapes,” he said. “So the ones done in the latter eighties were quite abstract.”
Painting an abstract is a different process from creating a landscape, but he enjoys doing both.
“The abstracts come from the imagination, they come from inside,” he said. “So, I’m following my intuition there. But I also have a tremendous colour sense, I can draw, and I love the beauty and the relationships of nature. So I’m looking for the same kind of harmonies in the abstract painting that I’m seeing in the landscape, but the one is produced outside and the other is produced inside.”
He lived in Calgary for many years, but he returned to southwest Saskatchewan in 1997 and is staying on a farm in the Lac Pelletier area.
“I never liked the city,” he said. “I managed to survive in a city by going out every day and painting landscapes. I’m a country boy. I don’t miss it at all. … This is home. I’m absolutely stuck into this corner of the province.”
His closeness to the land, which he described as spiritual, started when he was a young boy.
“I grew up on a piece of virgin prairie just on the edge of the Turkey Track ranch,” he said. “I just lived in my imagination in this little valley that had a stream running through it. When I was eight years old the PFRA put a dam and ruined that valley and it was one of the biggest shocks of my life.”
He also expresses his feelings for the land in his music. The lyrics of his country songs refer to ranching life and the natural cycles of the earth.
He will be participating in an upcoming dinner series organized by the Southwest Quest Art and History tour, which will consist of musical entertainment and an exhibition of local art in combination with a dinner.
Christopher’s Art Harvest sales event is scheduled from 4-8 p.m. Oct. 18 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 19. To reach his studio, watch for the sign on the south side of Highway 343, three miles west of the Lac Pelletier Regional Park turnoff. For more information, phone 306-741-9971.

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