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What strikes you as beautiful?
 

What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

- Emily Bronte

Poplars 
Olga Raduschkevich
oil on canvas board 30" x 22"


En Plein Air
Art as Solace, Art as Freedom

featuring Olga Radushkevich

 

We are very pleased to feature the plein air work of Olga Radushkevich.

Olga likes to have her work speak for itself, which of course it does!

But Olga herself has quite a story which provides a very interesting context for her art.

 

IN THIS ISSUE 

What is 'en plein air' painting?

About Olga Radushkevich

Meet the artist, Saturday October 29

Our mission and our time

Plein air artists at the gallery

 

What is 'en plein air' painting?
Several of the gallery's artists like to work 'en plein air' as you'll see below. In case you're unfamiliar with the term, it simply means painting an outdoor scene while out of doors looking at it. Wikipedia elaborates:

"The theory of 'En plein air' painting is credited to Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819), first expounded in a treatise entitled Reflections and Advice to a Student on Painting, Particularly on Landscape (1800), where he developed the concept of landscape portraiture by which the artist paints directly onto canvas in situ within the landscape. It enabled the artist to better capture the changing details of weather and light."

Tom Thomson, that huge influence on Canadian art, painted en plein air almost daily on inexpensive wooden boards (that are now displayed in nitrogen-filled cases at major museums to preserve them!) He, and his followers in the Group of Seven, called such works "sketches" and would occasionally base a large canvas on a particularly successful sketch. Other famous practitioners included van Gogh, Monet, Cassat, Corinth, and Renoir.

The technique first became practical in the early nineteenth century when oil paint first became available packaged in convenient tubes. Special travel easels ("box easels") were developed that could facilitate the mobile painter.

Tom Thomson's kit involved a canoe. Olga Radushkevich has built her plein air practice around her bicycle.

 


Nowadays, the technical advantages of capturing "changing details of weather and light" can be achieved easily enough with a cell phone camera! Yet artists persist in the practice of painting out of doors. Why? It must be that there is something else about being on the site of a scene other than the precise technical representation. Painters, at least as much as the rest of us, love being outdoors! 

The purpose of contemporary painting can't be 100% representational in an era of ubiquitous photography. Plein air painting can be seen as a meditative act on the part of the artist. When a plein air painting captures our attention as viewers, it does so because the artist has captured something of the mood, feeling, and essence of a time and place.
First Frost 
Olga Radushkevich
oil on canvas board  11" x 14" 
framed: 12.5" x 15.5"

“As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky,
and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?”

― Anne Frank

About Olga Radushkevich
Irene and I feel privileged to have Olga not only as a participating artist but also as a friend.

In getting to know her, we see her art as an integral part to her story, a story which is steeped in the dramatic and often tragic history of Russia and eastern Europe.  For us it's all of a piece.

To be fair, this isn't exactly how Olga looks at it. Art is for her an immersion in nature, a reconnection to the miraculous aspects of life. 

But I'd like to tell you a bit of her story, so you can see both sides of this question.

 
 

Olga was born in Irkutsk, a large city in Siberia. Her father was a descendant of a Polish revolutionary, Iosef Radushkevich. Iosef participated in the January Uprising of 1863, in which various strata of Polish society unsuccessfully tried to free themselves of oppressive Russian Tsarist rule.  Upon the failure of this movement, the Russians captured many thousands of Poles, including Iosef Radushkevich, and marched them across the entire continent of Asia to exile them into the Siberian wilderness. 

They and their descendants were eventually given some limited freedom, but they were prohibited from leaving Siberia. To this day many of the people of Irkutsk have Polish surnames. 

About a century later, Olga's father attended medical school mostly in Irkutsk. It was in Voronezh, a large but modest city in southwestern Russia not far from Ukraine, where he met Olga's mother, a fellow medical doctor of Ukrainian heritage. They married and returned to Irkutsk where Olga was then born.

Olga speaks fondly of the wild and rugged scenery on the shores of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, and the area nearby. As a doctor, her father had opportunities to visit remote villages, sometimes nestled up against the Mongolian border, and Olga would come on these journeys and marvel at the beauty of the remote wilderness of Siberian mountains.

Olga's parents  moved back to Voronezh to take up medical practice there. They encouraged Olga to follow in their footsteps, but after a couple of terms of studying science at the university in St Petersburg, the young Olga found her attentions drifting away from science.

She instead became associated with a very creative group of artists of all stripes, musicians, actors, sculptors and painters, in a collective (Свободная культура or "Free Culture") which persisted for decades afterward. While never religious, she developed an interest in comparative religion, trying to understand and compare various ideas about our universe from different traditions.

During this time she met her artistic mentor, Lucian Dolinski, a prolific sculptor and painter who had had a difficult history himself. Orphaned by the execution of his parents by Stalin's regime, he had been claimed as a son by an unrelated woman as mothers were receiving lenient treatment. After his first public art exhibit in the 1960s he was denounced as having a "bourgeois ideology" and deprived of the right to teach or exhibit. After much wandering he found his way to St Petersburg and "Free Culture" where he was an active participant. He received a "certificate of rehabilitation" in 1997 and lived in St Petersburg until his passing in 2014.
Olga received informal instruction in painting from Dolinski. Eventually becoming a single mother, she moved back to Voronezh and with the assistance of her parents resumed a career in medicine. Although this time was post-communist and Russia was more free than before (or now), Olga was frustrated and dissatisfied with the medical system which she experienced as severely underfunded especially by comparison with lavish new funding for the Russian Orthodox church. After striking up an intellectually and eventually romantically engaging correspondence with an Ottawa resident, she found herself in Canada, her medical career behind her.

She enrolled in a program in commercial animation at Algonquin College, and currently makes her primary income working in a local animation studio. She doesn't drive, but has discovered the beauty of Ottawa that is accessible by bicycle, and partakes of it at every opportunity, usually with her box easel in tow. We're very pleased to be able to share the results with you.

One thing that can be gathered from all of this is to note that Olga's colour palette differs from that of most Canadian painters. We see a distinctively eastern European sensibility in her unique style.

But perhaps a more important point is how nature can be a touchstone in a turbulent and unsettled life and in difficult times. It's true for Olga, and it's been true for many other people as well.
 
Almost Blue 
Olga Radushkevich
oil on canvas board  12" x 10" 
framed: 13.5" x 11.5"

Rust 
Olga Radushkevich
oil on canvas board  10" x 12" 
framed: 11.5" x 13.5"

 
Stream 
Olga Radushkevich
oil on canvas board  10" x 12" 
framed: 11.5" x 13.5"
Meet the Artist, Saturday October 29
It looks like this mild autumn is going to favour us with yet another beautiful day on Saturday, so we'll be having a meet the artist event outside the gallery, Saturday October 29 from 2 PM to 4 PM. Drop by and meet Olga, to discuss her work and her artistic outlook with her. 

We remain concerned about health issues, so will be encouraging only one household at a time inside the gallery. But she and we we will be very happy to meet and chat outside!


You can see our complete selection of Olga's work at this link.
 
Our Mission and Our Time
Pardon me if this is pretentious. Maybe we're just a modest little gift shop, and we shouldn't be putting on airs. But Olga's story has us reflecting on our own stories, (both Irene and I are from eastern European refugee families ourselves) and our role in the fraught present day.

There's a question to be asked whether it makes sense to be selling art. We try to keep our inventory accessible and decorative, while at the same time maintaining a level of artistic merit. But at a time like this, with war and disease looming, with political and financial instability abroad and at home, why sell art? Why buy art?

We can't pretend that our work as a small gallery contributes in any direct way to addressing these issues. Still, we think there's a point to what we are trying to do that's not entirely separate from our larger circumstances.
 

There is an oft-told story that when Winston Churchill was asked why he intended to continue supporting the arts in Britain during the war, he responded to the effect that he was making certain that the country he was defending was worth fighting for. There are numerous versions of the quote, and no evidence that there is any basis to the story, but its very persistence indicates that there might be something to the idea.

We would like our efforts to add just a modicum of civilization to our street, our neighbourhood, and our city. Almost every artwork we carry celebrates nature in some way. This is in keeping with our national traditions in the arts, but it's also what we seek in the arts, not just visual art but music and literature also. It's so easy nowadays to fall into traps of anger and frustration. There is so much to be angry and frustrated about. But let us find happiness all the same. Art brings us back to an appreciation of life.

Nature brings us back to counting our blessings even in difficult times, and art that draws on nature can bring us back to nature and to appreciating the miraculous in life.

This is what we mean when we say that art really is essential. You can survive without any art at all. But art brings us to the essence of life, to why we choose to survive, to appreciation and celebration of the astonishing glory that is, even in the hardest times, all around us .


 

“Shall I speak of the manifold and various loveliness of sky, and earth, and sea; of the plentiful supply and wonderful qualities of the light; of sun, moon, and stars; of the shade of trees; of the colors and perfume of flowers; of the multitude of birds, all differing in plumage and in song; of the variety of animals, of which the smallest in size are often the most wonderful,--the works of ants and bees astonishing us more than the huge bodies of whales?

“Shall I speak of the sea, which itself is so grand a spectacle, when it arrays itself as it were in vestures of various colors, now running through every shade of green, and again becoming purple or blue? Is it not delightful to look at it in storm, and experience the soothing complacency which it inspires, by suggesting that we ourselves are not tossed and shipwrecked? Who can enumerate all the blessings we enjoy? ”

                        ― St Augustine of Hippo

Other Plein Air Artists at the Gallery
Olga is not alone among our gallery's artists in working plein air, and we don't want to miss mentioning some of the others.

Pina Manoni-Rennick is a very productive painter who begins the majority of her canvases, even the larger ones, en plein air. Here is "Red Trees at Mer Bleue", acrylic on canvas, 10" x 8".

 

Lori Ridgeway normally works in studio, from photographs of Ottawa's greenbelt, but on a recent workshop in Italy she completed this wonderful plein air piece as an assignment. It's called "A Taste of Home, Away" as this Italian tree reminded her of home.  It's oil on 12" x 16" canvas board, framed at 13" x 17".
 

Angie Barrados is also fond of painting en plein air. This wonderful Georgian Bay landscape is called "Big Water", oil on canvas board, 10" x 8", framed at 14" x 12".
 

Get to Know Your Neighbourhood Gallery!

A friendly neighbourhood business, we welcome all visitors who love art. Please stop by and get acquainted! We offer a fine walking destination, just a few meters off the Rideau Pathway, very close to Beechwood Village.

Looking is free! Chatting is no extra charge!

We now allow up to three (human) visitors inside at a time. A single well-behaved leashed dog may also visit. Masks (for the humans) are optional but appreciated. 

Even the best photographs of art don't do them full justice!

We encourage you to come by and  look, to get the full impact of these marvelous artworks. 

We're located just off the Rideau Pathway, so wander by on your urban hike, visit the geese, take in the autumn scenery, and have a peek at our display windows while you're in the neighbourhood! 

We change our displays frequently to keep the gallery windows fresh and interesting for passers-by.

Curbside pickup and local delivery (within the city limits) remain available.  
 
We and our artists greatly appreciate
you shopping locally!
 

1 - 5 PM Thursday - Saturday
or by happenstance
or by appointment


 299 Crichton Street

or shop online. 24/7/365.

Telephone inquiries welcome at 613 748 - 2008.

Or contact us via email using this form.


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