Nature meets fantasy

Rebecca Cowan’s newest collection of sublime prints

Cowan’s prints on wall display at Studio 22.
Cowan’s prints on wall display at Studio 22.
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With a particular focus on nature, fairy tales and the secrecy of the human mind, artist Rebecca Cowan’s series Nymphs - New Works in Mixed Media is the epitome of thought-provoking art.

Although at first glance the artwork - located at Studio 22 in downtown Kingston - looks painted, the series was actually generated through print-making - a technique that involves the transfer of images through processes of engraving, stenciling, cutting and more.

Cowan attended the Toronto School of Art at the age of 29, where she was first introduced to this artistic approach.

“I was very hesitant to pursue art as a career because I knew how precarious it would be,” she said. “I didn’t really have a desire to paint, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then, the first week of classes I took a print-making course and I just fell in love with it.” Each piece, printed on wooden canvas, presents viewers with individual faces against pastel backgrounds surrounded by whimsically-drawn trees and flowers.

Cowan was slightly hesitant to begin the project. She had been playing around with the idea for a long time, but was unsure of how to incorporate each theme into the initial idea.

“I did a series of [tree] art work two years ago, printed in black and white, and I had wanted to go further with them,” Cowan said. “Many things came into play to get to the Nymphs. One of the ideas I’d been thinking of for a long time was the idea of secret lives, the fact that we have a public and private persona - what we keep hidden and what we show. But I didn’t know how to get there.”

According to Cowan, the Japanese concept of the healing experience of being in the woods was tied in with the artist’s interest in magical creatures. This was united by the idea of the nymph, thus leading to the creation of the Nymphs project.

“The nymphs bring all those concepts together. You’re in the forest, and you have this experience of light, breathing and air, and these nymphs are fleeting magical figures in the forest <-> I just loved that whole idea.”

In the artwork, both the nymphs and theme of privacy come through in the ambiguous faces, each bearing a unique facial expression; some sombre, others sly or curious.

The series was also influenced by the role of technology in today’s world, Cowan said. The need for nature is enhanced by the amount of technology we have and we’re not paying enough attention to the world around us.

Nymphs - New Works in Mixed Media is a series intricately crafted to convey the importance of nature, assisted by elements of fantasy.

Through the series, the artist hopes to change the viewer’s outlook on their world, if only for a moment.

“I strive to create work where people can have some sort of transcendent experience,” Cowan said. “So they view and interpret it, and find something new within themselves by looking at this art. You just see something, even the smallest thing in your world, slightly differently, after experiencing the work. That’s what I’m always after.”

bNymphs - New Works in Mixed Media can be viewed at Studio 22 on 320 King St. East.>

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