HORIZON LINES are elemental to us; humans have always had to orient to the landscape as a fundamental aspect of our survival. I look at Irma Soltonovich’s paintings of abstracted horizons and see things that may or may not be there; it’s a mirage, a mystery, and a map all at once. She applies paint to the canvas in calculations of sparse but effective visual cues—colours, contrasts, and geometry—so the viewer can, in a fraction of a second, place themselves into their own familiar landscape. I see specific and known places in Soltonovich’s paintings the way I sometimes discover a heart in a rock on the beach, or a face in the surface of a rusting metal door.
Scale, style, and subject matter all must convene in harmony in order for someone’s visual expression to land with viewers. Soltonovich’s large, horizontal, abstract landscapes have struck such a solid chord with so many that gallery owner Dawn Casson hosts an annual solo show for the artist, regular as clockwork. “If it’s August, it’s Irma,” Casson says, and that’s all collectors need to hear in order to plan their summer holidays around the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm and these shape-shifting, evocative works.
In actual fact, Soltonovich’s subject matter is often drawn from the prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Casson says. “She grew up in Saskatchewan; that’s usually her inspiration. Warm yellows, ochres, bits of greens and reds in them…they’re not super-defined…people see what they want to see. A lot of times people look at one and say, ‘It’s a water scene,’ and another person says, ‘That looks like the prairies to me.’ It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess.”
Soltonovich made the commitment to practicing her art full-time in 2013, after years spent painting part-time while working in the development and delivery of programs in the criminal justice field.
“Of Self, Place, and Belonging,” new works by Irma Soltonovich, runs July 28 to August 25 at the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm, 109-5325 Cordova Bay Rd. Artist's reception August 11, 1-4pm, 250-658-8333, www.thegalleryatmatticksfarm.com.