By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk
Image courtesy of Erica Hawkes
Erica Hawkes | Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas | 30 in x 60 in (76 cm x 152 cm) | 2015
What can we learn from this work?
Erica Hawkes painted Enfolding Light in the style she calls Nouveau 7, a combination of two early 1900s art movements: the Group of Seven and Art Nouveau. She presents her own view and impression of the Canadian landscape, just like the Group of Seven members who joined their forces to rebel against the 19th century art that emphasized the imitation of nature and the European approach to landscape painting.
“My favorite Group of Seven members are Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, Frederick Varley, and A.J. Casson,” says Hawkes. “They were pushing the then known boundaries of accepted landscapes with fabulous results. Sometimes detail can distract from the impact of a whole and the Group of Seven were very fresh in their impressionistic approach. The flowing lines and diminished detail are more impressionistic. The emphasis is on design, color and balance over detailed perfection. Often they have little color and stark contrast between land and sky with defined lines of sunlight.”
The Group’s members worked closely together, influencing each other. All but one of the founding members worked as commercial artists, so it’s not surprising that elements of design are incorporated in their landscapes. Hawkes also follows this path by stylizing her works with the flowing, curvy lines of Art Nouveau.
“At the same time (as the Group of Seven) the Art Nouveau movement was all the rage in Europe, with its organic flowing lines and beautiful design. It influenced these early Canadian landscape artists, and has definitely had a profound impact on my art as well! I hope I can inspire others to pick up a paint brush, or at least look up these two amazing art movements as they learn their own artistic voice.”
Lines define Enfolding Light. While impressionist painters often blur lines of separation and blend colours, Hawkes separates shapes and colours into elements as if she was putting together a puzzle.
“The Nouveau movement was just so beautiful,” the artist says. “It truly had a lasting impact on my art, and my inclusion of lines in some of my paintings, so the lines you see in the clouds of Enfolding Light are a feeling of the organic flow of the Nouveau movement. I like using the edge of a flat brush to put in these stylized lines. I never know where it will go until I am done. It is so much fun!”
Although unintentional, some of the lines in Enfolding Light form shapes similar to ovoids and U-forms characteristic of Formline, a design practice used by the aboriginal artists of the Northwest Coast of North America. Since the curved line of various thickness is key to Formline, it is not surprising that Hawkes’ work has a Northwest Coast art feel to it.
Hawkes varies her lines to suggest movement. The lines that form the clouds are curvy, of various thickness, and there are many of them, as if they were pushing each other out of the way and squeezing between the layers. With bits of contrasting colour, they represent those low-hanging, fast-moving, rolling-over-each-other clouds that may, or may not, turn into rain.
As the title of the work suggest, the clouds enfold the sunlight, leaving open a patch of the blue sky allowing the sun to send its rays down, and highlight part of the mountains and the ocean.
From the turbulent cloud cover, the artist guides our gaze down to the mountains and the water where the curves of the lines are much softer and more orderly suggesting the lack of movement. The little variation in colour in the lower part of the painting also adds to this sense of inactivity.
Despite the strong stylization and the many lines separating the colours into distinct shapes, we can easily understand this familiar landscape and weather pattern.
The flowing lines, the elongated shapes, and the contrasting but balanced and soothing colours create a sense of calmness and relaxation.
“Mostly the mood to my paintings is peaceful and hopefully a breath of fresh air, or that moment at the end of the day where you have finished all of your work and you are sitting in a comfortable spot musing over your life,” says Hawkes. “Sometimes there is a bit of a battle going on, or perhaps more of a balanced wrestle of light and dark competing for space on the canvas.”
As peaceful and calm as the landscape in Enfolding Light is, it is also playful, even whimsical because of the way the cloud lines, in particular, curve and tease each other. The upper part of the white cloud is like a genie escaping from the bottle and unleashing its grandeur and power. There may be a storm brewing, but for now, as captured on Erica Hawke’s canvas, it is the jolly calm before the storm.
Until April 26
Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Erica Hawke’s Convergence is a collection of landscapes painted in the artist’s unique style that combines Art Nouveau, Cubism and the Group of Seven. Rolling mountains, billowing clouds and reflective expanses of water are captured through luminous fields of colour, boldly contoured shapes, and sharply angular as well as elegantly sinuous lines.
Erica Hawkes was born and raised in British Columbia, studied design in Denver and Vancouver, and worked as an illustrator, portrait artist, teacher and photographer. She paints in variety of styles, including cubist impressionism and Nouveau 7. She loves everything about art, from taking photographs for future works, to the sketching and painting.
Learn more about Erica Hawkes and see more examples of her work: