Elizabeth Hollick's colourful

Bodies, city juxtaposed

Artist and muralist Elizabeth Hollick reserves her most uncompromising work – and subject matter – for the canvas

Peninsula painter Elizabeth Hollick didn’t get to be a local legend by doing things by halves – or not following her inspiration wherever it led.

Standing before her latest show at Semiahmoo Arts’ Turnbull Gallery at South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre – Body Parts In Unexpected Places  – the artist described her approach to her career.

“I know I can’t be in a gallery, painting the same thing for 50 years,” she said. “I  feel sorry for artists who do that.

“For me, (the decision) was ‘maybe you can make money with mural painting’ – I’ve actually done very well with that. And when you paint on canvas you can retain the freedom to paint whatever subject matter you like.

“Something has to be so interesting to me that I want to paint it. I have to be challenged, it has to be exciting to paint.”

Body Parts In Unexpected Places is almost exactly what it sounds like – Hollick paints various human body parts, like the brains, the lungs, the heart and the intestines, popping up as integral elements in a series of White Rock-inspired landscapes –  all with unrestrained, almost cartoonish dynamism and vivid, but carefully chosen, acrylic palette.

If her approach to this show seems without compromise, that’s not quite the case.

Hollick admits that one painting – in which the body parts happened to be human genitalia – was not OK’d by Semiahmoo Arts for inclusion.

“I understood that and accepted that,” Hollick said. “But we negotiated and a couple more that they found a little disturbing were included, so I’m happy about that.”

The paintings in question are a depiction of a trio of muscular men – in a quite literal sense – carrying a block of White Rock businesses, including Penguin Meats, across Johnston Road (inspired by an impending change of location) and one of the Bosa towers looming over a street festival on Russell Avenue, revisualized, startlingly, as a Caesarian birth being raised skyward by the artist’s own hands.

If the blood and sweat dripping off the building is seen as some sort of criticism, it isn’t so, Hollick said.

“Some see birth as pain, but I see it as a joyous experience,” she said. “I’m a fan of the Bosa towers. I wish they could have built one 40 storeys high, that could be seen from Guildford and out to sea and had something quite extraordinary on top.”

The odd juxtapositions at the heart of Hollick’s current show have an entirely logical inspiration – at the height of her late husband Michael’s fatal illness she wanted to learn more about “what was going on in his body,” and bought a book on anatomy.

A little over a year ago, she said, the patterns of body structure began to fuse in her imagination with the anatomy of the city she discovered while doing frequent sketches of construction work around White Rock and South Surrey, watching buildings evolve from underground excavation to framework and completion of the outer envelope.

“Quite a lot of the show comes from these books,” she said, brandishing volumes full of her detailed sketches.

“When I look for things to put in each painting, I find the appropriate sketch.”

It’s a methodology much favoured by the masters of the Netherlands Renaissance school, such as Breughel and Bosch – and, indeed, Hollick’s highly-populated landscapes are reminiscent of these artists at their most surrealistic.

There’s a large amount of engagingly wry and witty detail in her paintings as scores of workmen and women labour over the structures that enclose and include the human organs, as in “Damaged Heart At The Crossroads” – in which a battered heart lies just under the surface of a project to remove blossoming trees from a city street.

“I wanted this to be all soft and beautiful on the surface, and for there to be open-heart surgery going on underneath,” she said.

Intestines At Halloween, Skin Quilts, Skeleton and Bones – each of the large canvases has its own logic, and repays extended viewings.

In It Takes Brains To Build a Skyscraper, a large envisioning head has an open brain pan – while all the scurrying workers have exposed brains, too.

“I had to find a way to show the brain – and I though everybody who works on a building site has to engage his or her brain, or nasty things happen,” the artist chuckled.

Body Parts In Unexpected Places continues at the gallery to July 20, and the artist will be in attendance Saturday (July 16) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Turnbull Gallery is located at 14601 20 Ave. For more information, call 604-536-8333.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

tease photo
Food truck desserts from Prague ‘pop up’ at Surrey shopping mall

The Praguery offers a modern take on a traditional pastry

A overview concept drawing of the Central District and its City Plaza, Gateway and Kennedy Heights neighbourhoods included in the Mayor’s Housing Task Force for Scott Road report. (City of Delta photo)
Walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods focus of task force’s vision for Scott Road

Report by Mayor’s Housing Task Force for Scott Road was presented to Delta council on Monday

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Maestro Otto Tausk. (Photo: vancouversymphony.ca)
50/50 lotto players buck up for Metro Vancouver musicians hit hard by COVID

‘Rapidly growing jackpot’ for VSO’s 50/50 draw as they go online with TheConcertHall.ca

Most Read