Creative detours

Landscape artist Christine Reimer stays on the lookout for that just-right image

EXHIBITION

Christine Reimer's Peaks, Islands & Beyond

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When: Monday through June 17. Opening reception June 7, 5 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m.

Where: The Gallery at Cedar Hill

Artist Christine Reimer uses a traveller's vernacular when speaking about her work.

"I don't really choose the direction I go," she said. "I get led."

When she veers from the path of her painted landscapes, her best-known work, she calls it a "creative detour."

Painting is also a journey in the literal sense of the word for Reimer, who grabs her camera and her husband and hits the road for what she calls "busman's vacations." They map out a route in advance, with special attention to the spots they expect to be the most picturesque. But Reimer always has her eyes open for that just-right image.

"There's just a moment that captures, for me, the essence of a place," she said.

Often, that moment arrives at inconvenient moments - like when they're barrelling down a highway.

"I'll shriek at him, 'Stop! Now!' as we almost get [rear]ended. And I'll run down the highway because he hasn't been able to stop at the exact point.

Because literally, it's a snapshot - that was it. And I have to run back 200 yards to a spot where there's just something about the composition that says it to me," she said. "I don't know how to describe it beyond that."

The results are vibrantly coloured portraits of a place. In Evening Light on Quadra Island, the sky is alight with daubs of orange, yellow and periwinkle.

There's red in the evergreens and on the rocky shore. And the water's full of hued movement.

It's one of 25 paintings in her show Peaks, Islands & Beyond, which opens Monday at the Gallery at Cedar Hill, located at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre. Her signature landscapes of West Coast islands and mountains are joined by her latest detour - abstract florals, created with the help of local floral designer Cory Hewko.

"For a whole year, once a month, Cory would do some kind of spectacular floral arrangement for me," she said. "I wouldn't paint them exactly as they were, but it was an inspiration and a sort of jumping-off point."

Reimer's previous detours include a paper collage series inspired by a summer obsession with quilting, as well as her "luscious ladies" series.

"There were always cats in them, usually wine - and always a luscious lady," she said.

The show also marks a return to painting for the artist, who took a short hiatus following the death of her parents and a period of ill health. She says her mother was a poster girl for breast cancer, having conquered it twice before succumbing to the illness at 86. Her father died of heart problems one month later in a long-term-care facility.

"I was close to my parents, so it really hit hard," she said. "I wasn't able to focus and paint the way I wanted to."

Two years later, she's back in the saddle. The mother of two, who was born in Duncan and has painted in the same house by Mount Tolmie for her entire career, credits her teachers for much of her success. She named high school art teachers Bill West and Carole Sabiston, as well as Jim Gordaneer, her professor in the UVic fine arts program, as her greatest encouragement.

She also pointed to her great uncle, Max Maynard, as her inspiration for moving to landscapes from figurative work as a young artist. Asked if she has any favourites among her works, she steals a line from him:

"Every time he finished a piece, he used to laugh and say, 'That's the best thing I've ever done.' "

Photos of the works in the show are available at www.christinereimer.ca. asmart@timescolonist.com

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