Encaustic painting by Irene GutSupplied

Original Published 10:04 May 05, 2022

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative

Peace Gallery North is celebrating the works of two artists on Friday with a series of linocuts, monoprints, and encaustic paintings from the creative minds of Linda Haugen and Irene Gut.

Titled Inspired by Nature and Travel, the exhibit delves into the world of travel, drawing on Haugen’s adventures to Australia and Haida Gwaii, while Gut’s pieces are more a reflection of her love for nature.

“They’re not realistic, it’s more intuitive painting for me. I never really start with a specific place, I start the painting and end up somewhere, but it’s almost always nature,” says Gut. “A lot of trees, I really love trees, and it is definitely inspired from the outdoors. I hike a lot and I’ve travelled quite a bit.”

Gut and her husband came from their home country of Switzerland  to Cecil Lake in 1995, and enjoy the quiet scenery of the Peace.

“Coming to Canada for us was kind of an adventure. We didn’t leave Switzerland because we didn’t have a good life, but my husband wanted to be a farmer and, in Switzerland, if you don’t grow up on a farm, it’s way too expensive to ever own one,” she said.

Gut expresses her artistry mostly through encaustics, or hot beeswax painting, and says the method predates many types of painting, originating with the ancient Greeks, and has gone on to teach the method in Fort St. John. The biggest appeal of encaustic is the ability to blend rich colours with texture, says Gut, and loves the sweet smell of beeswax being worked under the iron. 

Haugen, however, is a master of the linocut; using her hands to carve wood and then pressing the design into a canvas after inking the surface, much like a large stamp.

“You can have a fun time creating different colours and you’re never sure what you’re going to come up with,” said Haugen, who also enjoys monoprinting, creating images from a single re-printable block, which can be made out of wood, metal, or even stone.

Haugen’s travels have taken her all over world; heading down under to Australia and Tasmania for a month in 2018.

“It’s kind of cliché, but it’s really about those magical moments that you want to capture in art,” she said of her time in Melbourne. “With our trip to Australia, I was absolutely captivated by the fruit bats; the flying foxes, and we had a lovely canoe trip down the Yarra River.”

Haida Gwaii was also a major highlight of her recent adventures, and she speaks highly of a trip to the island in 2019.

“I just love being in the rainforest and the air that encompasses inside the forests, the walks on the beaches, and what washes up every day on the beach,” Haugen said. “We were up in the Masset area, and we had a Haida guide that took us up to one of the old villages that had been abandoned due to small pox.”

“The burial totems there are just in a state of decay and going back down into the earth, and I kind of appreciate that, that recycling.” 

Gallery curator Jacqueline Benedetto says the show is an exciting opportunity to take in two very distinctive and complimentary  mediums, and shouldn’t be missed.

“Not only is it a beautiful technique, producing wonderful textures, as seen in Irene’s paintings, but it is also a very natural discipline as its materials themselves come from nature,” she said of Gut’s work, noting Haugen is happy to answer any questions about print making.

“Linda will also be offering insights into the method of making linocuts and monoprints, for those who are interested in gaining a deeper perspective into this wonderful medium.”

This item reprinted with permission from Alaska Highway News, Fort St. John, British Columbia