We are now well into the winter months but the phrase “Winter is coming” (not just a pop culture reference!) is one that haunts us Canadians even on the balmiest summer days. Love it or hate it, we can’t avoid having some kind of relationship with the winter.
Brie Neilson and Ian Moar are local artists and musicians who recently collaborated on a show exploring the connections we have with our longest season. The exhibit ran from November 20–December 19 at the Lookout Gallery. These two are worth keeping on the radar—it’s always a pleasure to see what they’ll be up to next.
SadMag: What was your process for coming up with inspiration for this exhibit?
Brie Neilson:After moving back from Montreal last year, I was over for a visit at Ian and Tracy’s (Ian’s wife). We were talking about project goals and Tracy said, “Hey you two should do a painting show together!” We were lightly brainstorming different themes and someone jokingly blurted out something Game of Thrones related and we ended up settling on ‘Winter is Coming’.
Ian Moar:We instantly started getting cool winter images, so we decided to go with that theme.
SM: Do you feel that there’s something about the experience of winter that is quintessential to a Canadian artist’s identity?
BN:When I lived in Montreal and winter was especially long and cold, it was very important to get out into it. To embrace it and use it—go skating and skiing and walking, and not hide inside. It was the only way to get through it. Many of my childhood winter memories growing up in BC were from our cabin at Whistler where we were always outside. Going back in was so nice, so cozy. I guess I like the contrast, the extremes.
Because we experience true winter here in Canada, I think it can make us more active people. And maybe more creative, because having seasons provides boundaries and limitations. Summer is wide open, while winter binds us—having the flow from one to the other is interesting and inspiring and provides momentum.
IM:Winter in Vancouver is such a different experience than the rest of Canada (with the biblical rains here) but I think winter shapes all Canadians, and the colder harsher places can turn out great artists because you’re not sitting around sunbathing on the beach, you’re escaping winter via music or painting or whatever.
SM: You each took a unique perspective on the winter theme. How has your relationship with winter shaped your pieces?
BN: I have a very positive relationship with winter. My paintings are all inspired by family photos: old and current and from all of my ‘homes’: Vancouver, Whistler, Montreal and Nova Scotia (where my husband is from). I went with a more literal interpretation of winter and ended up painting snowy landscapes and cabin scenes, my parents on the ski hill and friends in fur coats. I was hoping to evoke in the viewer the kinds of feelings I get when I think of winter.
IM: Winter for me has a bleak, dark vibe. Aside from skiing I could really do without it altogether. My pieces have a bit of that moodiness and darkness. I tried to combat my natural inclination to paint only ruins, graveyards and the like with some things a little more life-giving as well.
SM: Did this particular exhibit present any new challenges for you as artists?
BN:Timing was an issue! We thought we had so much time when we planned the show, but we both ended up cramming which is challenging and exciting, and almost always inevitable. Also, it was an interesting approach to plan the show and then make the work. Usually a show comes out of work, I think.
IM: I really have not painted much since I finished my fine arts degree in the late ’80s, so it took a bit to get my groove on. Hopefully this will kickstart me into painting on a regular basis as I really enjoyed the process of creating pieces for this show.
SM: Do you have any projects lined up next?
BN: I’ll be back to focusing on my music again. I have a gig coming up on February 6 with Arnt Arntzen at Skinny Fat Jack’s on Main Street.
IM:Not right now, but I want to keep the momentum up and try to get a show together in the not too distant future.