Photo By: Haytham Nawaz

The 13th Street Gallery in St. Catharines held an art exhibition last week that featured a dazzling selection of Canadian works that each take radically different approaches to what the term ‘nature’ means. 

Into Nature was a fitting title for the exhibition given the contrasts of the three artists whose works were displayed. Had the exhibit just been titled Nature, then at a first glance only Floyd Elzinga’s metallic representations of Canadian landscapes that are almost optical illusions (seriously, check this out) would appear to fit the bill. It’s the ‘into’ portion of the title that helps unlock the natural element in the more abstract works by Carlo Amantea and Marianne Fowler, as they both play with the ‘nature’ in terms of human beings existing, both as nature and in nature. 

Elzinga’s pieces are impressive in their physicality alone; pinecones, trees, lakes, and more are all represented out of various metals. There’s a dimension of honed craftsmanship that is undeniable when seeing his metallic replicas of Canadian nature. 

That’s not to say Elzinga doesn’t dabble with more cerebral expressions when using his signature leaden form, though. “The Kiss,” another one of his works, and one of the best pieces highlighted at the exhibit, features two rectangular structures composed entirely of incongruent, jagged layers of rusted metal that lean up against each other at the top, trading a few metal bits at this intersection. The name brings romantic associations to a piece that’s so cold and angular, it activates the imagination through this contradiction in a wonderful way.

Amantea’s works all shared a colourful vibrancy, pieces were storms of layer and chaos. The most interesting thing about Amantea is his embracing of paint’s density. Many of his pieces feature circular streaks of paint that erupt off the canvas because of the sheer liberal use of it. Additionally, many of his pieces on display feature a centre void, sometimes more than one in a painting. With the layering of paint mentioned earlier, these singularities make the pieces feel endlessly deep, like staring into a blackhole that morphs all that stands around it into infinite forms. 

Amantea also used the dried up paint that usually collects at the bottom and rim of a paint can in a select few pieces, a choice that characterizes his take on nature as the mystery of ourselves. His use of excess, whether in circular globs or dried paint crust, creates a level of self-awareness, reminding the viewer that a person painted this. 

Finally, Fowler’s contribution seeks to assemble and disassemble the matrices of nature. The feeling that there’s a pattern, or an internal logic behind her paintings is strong yet always elusive; the more you look for it the less it shows itself. One of her pieces titled “Expanse” is a good example of this; it appears like a decomposing sequencing of birch tree bark. This battle of the logical with the disorderly is where Fowler really captures the ‘into’ aspect of Into Nature.

Needless to say, the artistry on display at this exhibition was beyond expectations. Each of the three highly-talented Canadian artists displayed works that complimented as much as they contradicted each other, just as nature does.