By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk with Tanya Kirouac
Courtesy of Tanya Kirouac
Tanya Kirouac | painting | encaustic on wood panel | 60″ x 40″ (152cm x 102 cm) | 2013
What can we learn from this work?
Encaustic painting involves applying heated, coloured wax to a wood panel or other surface. Beeswax, damar resin and pigment is the traditional mixture.
“I use a very similar combination to the original, but include sculpting wax, as well, known as microcrystalline,” says Tanya Kirouac. “The melting point of this wax is higher than just beeswax alone and it is more flexible.”
Here is a brief demonstration of encaustic painting by Kirouac:
Kirouac’s Reflections, a representational painting of a lily pond, displays characteristics of impressionism, a 19th century art movement pioneered by a group of French painters, including Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir. Like many works by Monet, Reflections captures an outdoor scene, flooded with light, in colours reflecting those found in nature. It appears to have been painted quickly and expresses the experience of seeing the pond rather than a photo-like representation of it.
“My original inspirations from when I began painting were impressionists,” says Kirouac. “Their voice still haunts my work, but it is not a goal that I am trying to achieve. I do not usually work from images, but the pond series is newer and mostly derived from working from pictures of specific places. My goal is never to recreate an image, but to create a sense or feeling of places that I have been. I work in a very loose style and do not have a strict guideline for painting, other than medium requirements, often starting paintings without an image in my mind of what the final piece will be.”
Repetition and pattern are dominant in this composition. Repetition, just like it sounds, is a repetitive use of the same or similar element throughout a composition. In Reflections, the lily leaves almost take over the surface of the painting, creating a pleasing pattern and a sense of continuity.
“The pond series explores the use of patterns in a very random way,” says Kirouac. “The circular shape is repetitive, yet follows no discernible pattern. The circular shape offers a comfortable place for the eye to rest, but only briefly.
Reflections offers an example of the use of contrast between light and dark. In the top left quarter of the painting, Kirouac uses dark browns, blues and greens, and contrasts them with the whites, pale blues and greens in the rest of the composition.
“Not all of my work follows that design standard, but there are certain bodies of my works where it is strongly felt and seen,” says the artist. “This example pushes the reality of the division between light and dark and creates a sense of drama without being concerned with depicting reality.”
Contrast is also created between the circular shape of the lily leaves and the horizontal area they cover, and the vertical lines of the grass blades in the patch of tall grasses to the right of the dark top left corner.
The contrast between the dark and light colours creates asymmetrical balance. One quarter of the painting is darker, heavier and its shapes are well defined; however, the remaining three quarters are much lighter in colour and weight, and the shapes are loosely sketched or absent altogether. In a way, a little bit of earth is balanced by a whole lot of reflected sky.
Although there are no definite lines in this work, the composition seems to rest on a diagonal, with the lily pads linking the darkest corner with the lighter one, diagonally opposite to it. Along this “line” the lily leaves progress from being most clearly defined to almost completely blending in with the white of the reflecting clouds. The whitest and most loosely painted areas (bottom left and top right corners) not only balance out the busy diagonal, but seem to force our attention to all the circles floating along that diagonal path.
These kinds of design decisions can be made at the planning stage, but they can also happen naturally and instinctively.
“That is kind of thing that I find in my work and usually come to those conclusions without forethought,” says Kirouac. “Usually once near completing a piece, these types of things will appear, and if I feel that they are valid and worth pursuing, I will enhance their appearance and strengthen the colour, light or elements. Symmetry is generally never found in my work or my life.”
Until December 27
Wall Space Gallery
358 Richmond Road
Ottawa, Ontario, K2A 0E1
Meet the artist and enjoy a demonstration of encaustic painting technique:
• Saturday, December 13, 2 to 4 p.m.
Beginning is Tanya Kirouac’s third solo exhibition at the Wall Space Gallery, featuring a combination of the different bodies of work, with a number of pieces from the poppy series.
Patricia Barr, director of the Wall Space Gallery:
“Tanya’s chosen material, encaustic, has such a beautiful texture that demonstrates such depth in each piece. Wax is not an easy medium to work with and yet Tanya has mastered the process. Her latest poppies have such an intense colour pigment that they literally soar off the canvas. My personal favorite has been her exploration of lily pads and marshes, an homage to Monet. They have such a dream like quality to them that I had to take one home. Our clients have shared that same immediate reaction to Tanya’s pieces and each have proven timeless appeal.”
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Tanya Kirouac now lives and works in Toronto. Most days she can be found in her Studio Fuse in the Distillery District, exploring the modern possibilities of the ancient medium of encaustic and applying them to the visual language of landscapes and the natural world. Encaustic medium also allows Tanya to develop complex images in relief by applying and removing layers of wax.
Her paintings have been featured in television interior design shows and magazines, and can be found in galleries and private collections in North and South Americas, Europe and Australia.
Learn more about Tanya and see more examples of her work: