Violet Rosengarten exhibits her plein air, mixed media paintings at Gallery Nineteen Nineteen, 6025 Stanley St., Halifax, including Orange Dahlia on Blue (above).
It’s no secret that Dartmouth-based artist Violet Rosengarten loves colour.
She is wearing a fuchsia sweater and a delicate scarf of pale pinks and oranges – colours that are echoed in her plein air paintings at Gallery Nineteen Nineteen.
“I think of myself as a colourist,” she says in an interview at the gallery, attached to Dean’s Flowers, 6025 Stanley St., Halifax. “I’ve always explored colour.
“I remember as little girl I’d pick up the shiny wrappers from chocolates and I’d collect them.”
Violet Rosengarten’s Spring Collection: Foliage & Flowers, Islands, Lakes and Sea is on view to April 26 and features plein air paintings of some of Rosengarten’s favourite spots in Nova Scotia including the Salt Marsh, Grand Desert, Carter’s Beach, Five Islands and the Blue Mountain — Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area.
Rosengarten gets her vivid colours by working in oil sticks over an underpainting textured in a light modelling paste. “The oil stick catches onto the parts that are sticking out and lets the underpainting come through which I like. There is a play between the two.”
Her passion for painting outdoors quickly on the spot started when she first sketched outdoors in Spain. “My father was born in Spain, he’d just died and I wanted to go back to Spain and connect with relatives. I did a little bit of plein air painting there. It has been more intense here because of the beauty of the province.”
She and her husband, filmmaker Alan Collins, moved to Nova Scotia 13 years ago and live next to the Dartmouth Commons.
“When I first came here I was enchanted by, seduced by, the work of Wayne Boucher and also by Leya Evelyn,” she says. Both these artists are abstract expressionists who work in saturated colour and with oil sticks. “When I discovered Leya’s work I couldn’t sleep at night. I was so stimulated.”
In 2012 Rosengarten produced Collins’ 45-minute documentary film, Drowning in Colour: The Art of Wayne Boucher. She also took art workshops with both Boucher and Evelyn but “I had to break away from them and find my own voice.”
Her own voice is lively and lyrical with strong line and striking colour. She can see colours in tidal pools that others might never notice.
Her skies in four paintings of a favourite view of the Salt Marsh from a Lawrencetown hill range from intense orange with a sweep of blue created with a wooden comb she bought in Toronto’s Chinatown to a pale, misty, foggy pink.
“The Salt Marsh always looks different depending on whether the tide is going out or coming in. It’s a very magical place and I find all kinds of colour in it.”
Salt Marsh 2
Rosengarten is not concerned with realism. “I’m concerned with the feeling of the place and expressing that through colour.”
Plein air painting is just one part of Rosengarten’s art-making. She also works in her studio on multi-media, abstract paintings and has a continuing series of abstracts with found rope that “symbolizes my attachment to Nova Scotia and what I feel about the ocean.”
“I’m a restless artist who wants to try different things,” she says. “The abstracts and the plein air definitely inform and enrich each other.”
Rosengarten was initially a textile artist who apprenticed in Mexico and Guatemala and explored colour, texture and abstraction. She loved tapestries as “paintings in wool” but wanted to go a step further.
“Painting is so direct and spontaneous as opposed to the planning that goes into weaving,” she says.
She did a BFA in painting and drawing at Concordia University, Montreal, and became a painter. “I sold my looms, I gave my yarn away and it felt good.”
She also did her B Ed at McGill University as an art specialist and taught art for 20 years in public schools in Toronto and Dartmouth.
Rosengarten, who exhibited last September in her solo show, Some Enchanting Islands, at Annapolis Royal’s Round Hill Studio, grew up in Ottawa and used to love going to the Gatineau Hills. “I’ve always loved nature and the nature of Canada.”
She is keen to continue painting with an artists’ group that explores and supports the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area near Halifax through sales of their paintings. “We go with guides because you really can get lost in there. It’s very wild.”
This exhibit includes views of Charlie’s Lake, an island in Susie’s Lake and granite erratics just in from the back of Kent Building Supplies in Bayers Lake.
This August the painter will explore another part of Nova Scotia with a residency on Brier Island. “That’s very exciting. Apparently at the end of summer you can see birds migrating and, of course, there are whales. I’m looking forward to that.”Charlie’s Lake
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