If the perfect landscape presents itself, painter Christine Reimer isn’t shy about screeching her car to a halt on the side of the highway to capture the moment. Nobody said art was safe.
The veteran Saanich artist, known for blending realism and whimsy in dramatic landscape pieces, is marking 30 years of painting with a show at The Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, starting Sunday.
It’s her first show in Greater Victoria since 2010 and features a mix of landscapes and abstract florals, perhaps 25 to 30 pieces generated in the past few years. The landscapes will be familiar to anyone who has travelled across the Island and the province – Rocky mountains and verdant meadows, wilderness lakes amid Douglas fir forests, Gulf Island arbutus trees stretching over water.
“I grew up on the coast, I have a bond with the coastal landscape,” Reimer said. “Being an Islander, it’s in my blood.”
She admits the abstract florals were a deviation from the hunt for landscapes – a kind of creative rejuvenation necessary every few years.
“I get bored doing the same thing. What I’ve done over 30 years is take detours,” Reimer said. “I had a figurative period of painting quirky people in dreamlike settings. I do that for a while, and then landscapes become fresh again.
“I do find it hard to limit myself to one thing – there are so many vibrant colours. I can’t help myself. I’m obsessed with colour, I always have been.”
Reimer has been an artist since she can remember, drawing at a young age and watching her talent emerge as a teenager. She credits art teachers Bill West and Carole Sabiston at Oak Bay High and then University of Victoria instructor and influential Canadian artist James Gordaneer as influencing and guiding her style and development.
Working through different mediums while earning her BFA at UVic, it was her great-uncle and noted painter Max Maynard (a contemporary of Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt in the 1930s and ‘40s) who steered her toward landscape images. “I was so inspired by the way he did landscapes,” Reimer said. “I thought I would give it a shot.”
It was a good decision. Now a professional working artist for 25 years, Reimer’s work decorates corporate offices, high-end hotels, restaurants, and galleries across B.C. “Between kids and painting, I’ve worked full time,” she said. “And my husband has been extremely supportive.”
Reimer said she’s fortunate to make a living as an artist, but noted her “long-suffering” husband must tolerate intensive photography during trips – she took a thousand photos in Banff and Jasper last fall – and the occasional demand to pull over on the highway, often so she can scramble up a cliff to grab a shot. Her photography is the groundwork for her art.
“My photos allow me to recall the place with better detail. If I use other photos of places I haven’t been, you can’t evoke the place truly.”
She admits that the last few years have been tough personally and professionally. The economic downturn across North America has squeezed budgets for commissioned art pieces and private sales. But she still keeps up a work schedule of painting about five days a week, usually in intensive three-hour bursts of acrylic on canvas.
“It’s been really tough at times. The last few years. It’s been very difficult for all artists. Art is a luxury item for people.”
Her work will be on display for two weeks in June, but Reimer is mulling her next set of work after recently returning from England – the roofscape and old-world architecture of London. “It’s something that’s tweaked my interest until I detour back to landscapes,” she said.
Reimer’s Peaks, Islands and Beyond – 30 years of Colour solo exhibit runs from June 3 to 17 at The Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, 3220 Cedar Hill Rd. The grand opening gala is Thursday, June 7, 5 to 7:30 p.m.