I appreciate developing paintings during the winter and spring.
In Canada winter is a time for deciduous trees to rest after a season of vigorous growth.
They shed their leaves, to retain precious water and remain relatively dormant. In summer with the leaves fully extended, for maximum growth, the overall shape of a tree is easily seen. In the fall colour dominates. During late fall, winter and early spring it’s much easier to see the growth and geometry of a tree through its bark, branches and twigs. At first it may seem difficult to see beauty in a tree during its dormancy. But, like a person sitting for a portrait, it’s a time to really observe and see some of the subtle details, the emotions and inner spirit of a living thing which is not moving, performing or expressing themselves in an overt manner. As the leaves fall and sky opens in the forest, I often find myself looking up and observing the space between the branches. Like capillaries as they flow from the trunk, the branches form incredible complex structures. The space above becomes a canvas of geometry, mathematical ratios, abstract spaces and forms which often seem to reflect the human body. I look up and wonder how other artists who have painted trees, like Cezanne, Van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, David Milne, Tom Thomson, Peter Doig or Jack Shadbolt, may have felt when looking at this complex space.
I consider time spent exploring and understanding the complexity of nature a catalyst to painting and an insight to understanding human culture. Like the diversity of world culture, I think it’s easy to feel awe and fall in love with the complexity of nature when one spends time in wild places. Time spent under a tree, looking up, can be like time spent in front of an outstanding painting...it’s a beautiful experience.
Van Klei was born in Chilliwack, B.C. He graduated from Simon Fraser University in 1997 after completing a B.A. (Visual Art), and a B.Ed (Visual Art).
While living in numerous rural areas of British Columbia he would often explore the fields and forests on his own. Living in rural areas also meant spending a lot of time traveling in vehicles where he would constantly frame the shifting world through a car window. These early experiences were instrumental in his perceptions and development as both a painter and photographer. Later these perceptions would further develop as he completed his private pilot’s license and began to experience the earth from above in a different, more abstract, and perspective.
Van Klei’s tendency towards ambiguity and abstraction in his works are often established around more tangible yet elusive elements such as wind or water. These elements are deceptively simple things that everyone experiences every day and yet are difficult to describe without using emotional symbolic references. Van Klei’s work refers to his personal experiences of sensing a space, and all of life’s elements. He values the unknown, questions exactly where one is going, with a belief that there are no coincidences.
Big sugar maple tree was created to represent the diversity of Canadian culture / familiar subjects combined with abstract elements,
He believes “one mark on a canvas determines where the next one will go.”
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