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Artist's brush with frustration after painting stolen from rec centre's gallery

Saanich police say they are narrowing the search after a piece of abstract art was taken from gallery inside the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.

Saanich police appear to be narrowing the search for the person who stole a piece of art from the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre last week. 

Det. Sgt. Damian Kowalewich said an investigator has been assigned to the case and is reviewing closed-circuit television footage from the gallery inside the centre. 

“It looks like we could have some images on there of a possible suspect,” he said. 

Police have spoken with artist Christine Reimer and staff at the recreation centre, but they are not yet ready to release a description of a suspect. 

Frustration, disappointment and irritation have coursed through the abstract artist’s veins and coloured her thoughts over the past few days as she wonders why anyone would have stolen a small painting from her “Colour of Dreams — Painting Metaphors” exhibit, which runs until Sunday.

It’s not the cost of the piece nor the hours of work that went into it that bother Reimer. It’s not even the fact it took decades of honing skills and abilities with a brush to put the piece together.

It’s the principle of the act.

“It’s an enormous amount of effort just to hang the show, aside from having painted all the paintings, so yeah, it’s really not a not a good feeling to realize that somebody thought: ‘You know I’ll just take this one,’ ” she said. “It is very disappointing because this how I make my living.”

The piece that was stolen, All That Glitters, was small — 12 inches by 12 inches — and only priced at $350, compared with her larger pieces that fetch thousands of dollars.

Reimer said it was a nice piece that was more complex than anyone might think at first glance, given the layers involved and reflective aspects of the painting. It had been done as a demonstration piece for the Sidney fine arts show a few years ago.

“It’s a tough way to make a living because you know, you’re at the mercy of what other people are going to do,” Reimer said, standing amid the gallery surrounded by her work.

And it’s not the first time it’s happened.

Reimer has had works stolen before. When she was 22, her work was lifted from a wall during the graduating show for visual arts students at the University of Victoria, which led to the complex emotion of being annoyed, and then a little proud that her work was worth stealing.

She has also had galleries sell off pieces and not pay her, close up shop and disappear, and some businesses have refused to pay for art they bought and displayed.

“I’ve been at this for 40 years and I’ve had a couple of galleries that have really treated me like crap,” she said.

What adds to the disappointment is the fact she has had a number of showings at Cedar Hill and never had any problems.

Reimer wonders if it has something to do with the state of the world these days and the pandemic hangover so many people are feeling. “It’s almost like people’s views of things have changed,” she said. “Now they say: ‘Well, it’s OK to do this and that.’ ”

There is a closed-circuit television feed inside the gallery that is likely to have caught some of the incident for posterity and police investigation. Reimer has filed a police report with Saanich and hopes they will be able to identify someone on the video.

Reimer was well known as a landscape painter for more than 30 years, but switched to abstract work when, she said, she got a little bored with landscapes and needed an outlet after a series of deaths in her family.

“There was catharsis for me in doing and starting the abstract painting,” she said.

Reimer is still able to maintain a sense of humour about the theft, noting she’s glad she included the small piece so the thief only made off with the inexpensive one.

And in a social media post, she added: “I hope the individual who stole this painting appreciates the 40-plus years of experience, education, creative energy, love and sheer determination that went into it.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com