I grew up in a house full of differences; different politics, different religion, different opinions on lifestyles . . .
Free-spirit was in my blood; boldness flowed through my veins and I had determination to make a difference in my life’s script. I was born in the middle of the WWII during an air raid. This could also have influenced my personality.
I was raised on coal soot from the trains running in front and behind; our railway cottage was in a junction between two main railway lines. In winter when the coal supplies ran low for the open fire we cooked on and heated the house we picked coal that had fallen off the rail cars onto the tracks as they passed by.
As a young child I was constantly walking the local hills and woodland trails that also surrounded our home; so much so that Mum made it a rule that when the whistle of the eight pm train went through I had to come home. I was mesmerized by the natural landscape around me, the little surprises that nature creates, the way a tree formed with the elements and wild flowers that grew at the base of the trunk, the way a bird built its nest.
When older I trekked the Pennine Moors, the backbone of England visiting many hidden gems nestled in the Derbyshire, Peak District countryside. I was intrigued by the caverns created by underground rivers that flowed under the moors and by the way the water created different patterns in the rock face.
My own creative process as a young girl was nurtured by my fascination with arts and crafts inspired by what I observed in nature. Limited resources meant restriction on many ideas I had. Therefore, I would allow my imagination to create whatever I wanted. I was soon labelled a day dreamer.
Later I nurtured the desire to be educated, backed by much support from my spouse. This excursion transpired into 6 years of intensive schooling. Harry and I have shed many tears with the successes and failures along this path. When I was given the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the City of St. Albert for my contribution to the artistic community we both celebrated heartily.
Today I look back and wonder if I would have had it any other way. I am who I am today because of all the turns in my road. My goal oriented determination drove me to achieve, in my forties, my fine art degree and a partial education degree that is incomplete because I soon realized I was not cut out to be in a class room alone with 30 adolescents.
All that went before has equipped me with good form for the world of visual culture. I have a dedicated painting studio in St. Albert which has allowed me the discipline towards the progressive development of my art practice required to achieve a cohesive style. My visual language is accepted and understood.
What is the mystery and mastery of the visual artist painter in me? Twenty five or some odd years later I have yet to answer this question; I am still learning how . . .
Currently I am applying for and acquiring periods of time at artist’s residencies which has advanced my painting process greatly. On the merit of my portfolio I have been accepted for art residencies three times at the distinguished Emma Lake Workshops in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada that occurs every two years. I have been a resident at the Banff Centre for the Arts for the AAARCH’s retreat. On the international level I attended a month long, fully funded residency at Valparaiso Fundación in Mojacar, Spain. The coherent consistency of my work and professional manner of my presentation has been commended by the cultural professionals I deal with.
In my artistic volunteer involvement I have spearheaded initiatives in support of the professional development of visual artists locally since 1994. I have managed a working Studio Gallery that has been filled to capacity with other artists.
In 2009 I officially donated my whole Studio Gallery business concept to a not-for-profit organization that I started in 2005 called Visual Arts Studio Association of St. Albert or VASA that now has three studio locations, eighteen artists and 40 + members and growing. The organization is fast achieving recognition and is seeking to expand its services to both the artists and the general public. The need was established, the ground work has been done, building for the future is occurring, and the artists are empowered with their ability to succeed. It is a legacy I am proud of.
VASA Studios has created an environment where we nurture creative thinking, encourage authentic expression of ideas, benefit from the communal sense of enthusiasm and purpose for each individual artist’s practice. In leasing space as a studio and gallery the artists have engaged the public in a dialogue with relation to the process of creative thinking, expression and display of fine art pieces.
I am proud to say VASA is about to move into its own; we have been allowed to lease approximately 5300 ft2 for five years in the Hemingway Centre in St. Albert that will accommodate 22 studios plus a program area and exhibition area.
On my personal creative trek my art practice has become the dominant force in my life. It’s consumed most of my days and many of my nights. The Abstraction into the Significant Line work is inspired by the many trips to the Emma Lake Workshops, University of Saskatchewan’s satellite Kanderdine campus in Northern Saskatchewan and also trips further north to the La Ronge area of Northern Saskatchewan. The vastness of the body of water as far as the eye can see, the rocks of the Canadian Shield looming, dauntingly beneath the surface all affect the way I see this Prairie land. As I drive along the roads and rolling hills experiencing the different colours and textures my mind captures the emotion then the imagination paints the picture. First in the mind as Aristotle said. Aristotle describes mind (nous, often also rendered as "intellect" or "reason") as “the part of the soul by which it knows and understands”.
I am a visual, kinesthetic, and audio learner. My senses consume it all; even the shadows. There is such a lot to see, that engage all. I’m amazed what my mind has taken in when I go into the studio and recall these treasures from the depth of my mind and then how the thoughts come alive on the canvas surface. The layers of meaning are there, the interpretation complete, and the language clear. The sense of satisfaction is incredible. I used to take photographs all the time but now I find they are too restrictive. They bind you to them. I researched the power of observation and recall by being in a forestry tower with a friend and walking the land around the tower and reading the history of the area then when back to the studio giving myself one week to make a drawing of what was in my mind. The end result was incredible! Everything was there with all that I had experienced during the visit. It was from then on that I trusted my observations more than the photographs. The regurgitation in the studio with intent is done by preliminary studies on Stonehenge paper and then moving the energy, emotion, and thought onto the larger canvases.
Influenced by the postmodernist formalist movement my process is to make a deliberate expressive stroke onto layers of ground colour that has been glazed over many times. Once I feel the depth of the surface I proceed with the tactile raised gel marks. In some pieces I have resisted the urge to fill the entire surface with paint. The paintings are sculpted surfaces of acrylic gel with layers of coloured glazes shifting from purely optical to the intensely tactile.
This body of work will go on for some time because I am so in awe with my adopted Prairie roots and my process that I have little desire to change directions. At the moment the process is progressive though so the pieces will evolve with time.
Still Learning . . .
Pat Wagensveld, BFA
(May 25, 1942 - December 23, 2013)