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Christine Nobel layers six months of landscape study in abstract | STUDY28

Christine Nobel layers six months of landscape study in abstract

By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk with Christine Nobel

Abstract painting Between the Melt by Christine Nobel

Images courtesy of Christine Nobel

Christine Nobel | Between the Melt | oil on panel | 32 in x 70 in (76 cm x 183 cm), triptych | 2014 © Christine Nobel

Detail of Abstract painting Between the Melt by Christine Nobel

Christine Nobel | Between the Melt (detail) | oil on panel | 32 in x 70 in (76 cm x 183 cm), triptych | 2014 © Christine Nobel

Between the Melt

What can we learn from this work?


Christine Nobel’s Between the Melt is another example of an abstract painting. Like Margit Hideg’s River of Lives it is a non-representational work, suggesting a feeling of a late winter landscape instead of showing it to us.


Between the Melt is a landscape of the rolling fields close to where I live,” says Nobel. “It was created over a period of six months as an observational study of how the colours and shapes change and adjust over the seasons. Over the course of this period of observation, there were fields of greens, bursts of wild flower patches, rain storms and snow falls.”

It is by layering her periodic observations one at a time – the bursts of flowers over the fields of greens, then the grays of the rain storms, followed by the whites and blues of the snow, then the green coming through the melting snow – that the artist arrived at her final landscape.

“I did several study sketches of this landscape, but the final work is the one landscape painting taken from all the various studies,” she explains. “This painting describes the last layer of what the landscape feels like before the spring, where the vegetation is beginning to pop through the last melting of snow.”


At first glance the dominant glacier blue gives Between the Melt an almost chromatic feel and minty-fresh iciness, but this first impression quickly gives way to the subtle differences in colour and a sense of warmth peeking through the yellows and reds.

“Between the Melt has six layers of oil paint, each layer creating a subtle shift in how the work is perceived,” says Nobel. “Behind the final layer of the muted, soft green lie variations of reds, oranges, blues and greens that shape a field in flowers. By layering different colours on top of one another and then covering them in a film of green a distant and partly frozen landscape is created.

“This overlapping of shapes and play of colour study, makes it appear as though there is a green translucent veil or ghostly cover absorbing the land and keeping it safe during the winter months. Every layer of colour is made by testing many different shades and tones and studying how they play off of each other.”

This sleepy iciness that Nobel has created through her choice of colours is opposite to the vibrant, bursting energy of geological forces expressed by Eliane Saheurs in the semi-abstract Enchanted Space VI.


When it comes to lines, Between the Melt could easily be titled Between the Lines; after all it has lines drawn right into it. Inspired by the tapestries of ancient cultures, Nobel uses a grid of horizontal and vertical lines as a basis for her works, as if working with the warp and weft on a loom.

“The vertical and horizontal lines are drawn using a slide ruler and hard pencil,” says the artist. “The basis of using a grid is to structure the painting as a tapestry – where each painted square or rectangle loosely fits into the calculated grid to form a blanket of thick paint layers to make it seem as though it has been woven.

“In Between the Melt the grid was calculated at the beginning stages of the painting to fit each panel of the triptych proportionally and where each box would alternate between the shape of a square or a rectangle, creating varied movement.

“There is also a bar inserted close to the middle of the triptych that is drawn onto the panel at the beginning stages and where the colour of it is chosen as one of the last steps in the completion. The colour and size of this central line ties the triptych together and allows the viewer to enter inside of the painting and fall into the horizon line of the landscape.”

Just like the usage of calm and vibrant colours allowed Nobel and Saheurs to create very different landscapes, the usage of straight lines in Nobel’s painting contributed to creating a sense of icy calmness that stands in contrast to the softer and warmer calmness evoked by the curved, organic lines dominating Margit Hideg’s abstract work River of Lives.


Identifying movement in an abstract work is trickier than in a representational work, or even a semi-abstract. How does an artist create a sense of movement in what appears to be a pattern of tiny squares and rectangles, with little variation of colour throughout the work?

“Although this painting is built using a structured grid, there is a lot of movement that surrounds its arrangement,” explains Nobel. “The movement comes from the layering of paint, creating a thickness and depth that guides the eye in and out of the subtleties in colour. There is also a rhythmic balance created by the juxtaposition of different colours placed strategically at certain points of the painting, leading the viewer through the artwork.”

As subtle as the vertical and horizontal lines of darker greens, reds, yellows and blues are, they move our eyes from one to another.

“Movement is also generated by the physicality of the oil paint,” adds the artist. “The thickness of the paint, the fluidity of the brush strokes and the translucency of the final layer of green allow for the other colours to pierce through – all contributing to an organic and soft dance across the panel.”

North – Shapes of the Earth
Until January 7, 2015
Atrium Gallery
101 Centrepointe Drive
Google Map

North – Shapes of the Earth attempts to address questions of perception and representation – transforming the image through explorations and deconstructions. Looking down from above, the earth appears as a designed and cultivated space. Fields, hills, reservoirs, and mountainous grids intersect rivers, oceans, drifts of forest, prairies, and wetlands.

In this exhibition, there are a variety of detailed and gridded landscapes that have subtle variations of colour, texture and empty space. The compositions are reminiscent of tundra or desert landscapes in their minimalism and tug at the underlying threads in the natural world. There is a dynamic tension between the gridded cells and the emergent, organic form they reveal – weaving images and leaving the viewer to consider the role of their own perception.

Christine Nobel

Christine Nobel was born in Montreal, Quebec and received her Bachelor of Fine Art from Concordia University. She is currently working at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. In addition, she has had a number of solo and group exhibitions, received a 2014 Visual Artists Grant from the Ontario Arts Council and has upcoming exhibitions in 2015 with the City of Ottawa and a land art installation at FIELDWORK.

Artist statement:

The unseen world within all forms of matter is brought to life in Christine Nobel’s work. Scenes from the natural world provide the subject matter, where the physical forms are apparent behind veiled layers as a series of draped doorways.

Precise grid systems give both order and fluidity to the experience presented in the work. Rather than suggesting a two dimensional view of reality, the grid patterns form a structure on which many interpretations may occur. Evoking a vast plane of vision and possibility, the field of horizontal and vertical lines are a foundation for notes of movement and a place to watch the seasons through screens of tranquil colours.

The tapestries of ancient cultures inspire the works, where the grid structure takes a direct cue from the warp and weft of textiles and traditional fabrics. The fields of markings and intersecting lines describe a reflective, reserved and unaffected view of the physical and emotional world.

Learn more about Christine Nobel and see more examples of her work:

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