May 7, 2012

Of Art And Artists

Landscapes or abstracts, oils, acrylics or mixed media, our West Coast artists are among the best.


When Elena and Constantine Kurbatoff opened their art gallery in 2002, they began by featuring international artists. It wasn’t long, however, before they realized that Canadian artists – and those of the West Coast in particular – were among the very best they had seen. Now their South Granville gallery is known for its Canadian artists – outstanding painters and sculptors whose work ranges from acrylics to oils and mixed media, from landscapes to abstracts and portraits.

So what does the gallery look for in an artist? “They all have to be unique in their own way,” says Elena Kurbatoff. “They have to be professionally trained, different from others on the market.” And, of course, they have to be sellable. Marleen Vermeulen, whose show opens at the Kurbatoff Gallery in June, is a West Coast artist who meets those criteria.

On her arrival here from Holland 17 years ago, Vermeulen was immediately captivated by the expanse of nature on her doorstep, the dense forests, sandy beaches and ever-changing ocean. Whether kayaking, camping, on daily runs through the rainforest, or simply catching the views from her home on the Sunshine Coast, Vermeulen captures the natural beauty of the area on her oversized oil canvases.

“I try to portray the expanse of land, the forest and ocean and the lack of human intervention,” she says. “I think the scale of my canvases helps portray that; I wouldn’t be able to create the same engagement on a smaller canvas. The painting itself is an organic process.” Her work is a true reflection of the Pacific West Coast. Viewed online the paintings appear realistic, almost like photographs, but up close they are very textured and display a strong abstract element. Taking distance from the painting will make it come into focus and guide you into the vista.

“There are hundreds of different types of landscapes around, but Marleen’s work has a unique freshness and really stands out,” explains Elena Kurbatoff. Choosing an artist to display in the gallery involves intuition along with an emotional connection, she says, something that provides valuable insight to be passed on to the buyers.

“The relationship between artist and gallery is important,” Kurbatoff says. “It has to be a good marriage.” Other West Coast artists featured this year at the gallery include Ann Zielinski and Donna Baspaly. Zielinski, who lives on Hornby Island, close to the ocean, beaches and forests, is an avid backpacker whose abstract paintings reflect her wanderings near and far and the nature that surrounds her home.

“Abstract art is very tricky,” Kurbatoff says. “There is a lot around so it has to stand out and Ann’s does. She looks into the essence of things.” Donna Baspaly, who lives in Qualicum Beach, describes herself as a storyteller who relates tales through her paintings. A multi-award-winning artist and a master of mixed media, layers of stamping, collage papers, texture, glazing, line work and much more go into her unique abstracts.

“Donna is a wonderful personality and has a very distinctive style,” says Kurbatoff. “Many of her works are humorous, often suggesting we take a lighter view of life.” People buy art for many different reasons, from the practical – they are changing their décor and buy a painting to suit the room – to the emotional – they fall in love with a piece and just have to have it. It may be a painting that once seen cannot be forgotten. At its simplest, a painting will enhance the walls and at its most meaningful it can improve the quality of life.

Upcoming exhibitions at the Kurbatoff Gallery:

May 10 – 24  Eva Kolacz
May 31 – June 14  Marleen Vermeulen
June 23  Introducing Yared Nigussu at the Gallery Walk
July – August  Group shows by gallery artists
Sept. 13- 27  Chris Langstroth
Oct. 11 – 25  Taralee Guild
Nov. 1 – 15  Donna Baspaly
Nov. 22 – Dec. 6  Chris Charlebois
Dec. 8 – 31  Holiday season group show by gallery artists



The South Granville Gallery Art Walk is an eagerly-anticipated event that is fun for visitors, galleries – and the artists. Those who enjoy browsing South Granville and dropping in to the many art galleries along the row will have a special reason to celebrate in June. The annual South Granville Gallery Art Walk will take place June 23, when some 15 galleries from Fourth Avenue south to Sixteenth will be putting on special events for the occasion.


South Granville’s art galleries have long been a mecca for all who enjoy exploring art from around the world. Now, on this day in June, visitors will be able to view the galleries’ current exhibitions and enjoy the fun and events of the day. Bau-Xi Gallery’s plans include a wine tasting from 2 to 4 p.m. held in conjunction with Fort Berens Estate Winery. At the same time, featured artist Janna Watson will be in attendance and will give a talk at 1 p.m. There will be a prize draw for two full-colour artist books and a closing reception.


At the north end of South Granville, next to the bridge, the elegant, neoclassical Uno Langmann gallery will have its experts available to answer questions on the Golden Age of Danish painting in the early 19th century, the subject of the current exhibition. Granville Fine Art plans refreshments and art demonstrations by artists Carmelo Sortino and Suzanne Northcott. The Kurbatoff Gallery will be introducing artist Yared Nigussu, who will paint live, inspired by the music – and by the audience visiting the gallery on this day. There will also be a reception from 2 to 4 p.m.


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