A Harlequin Escapade

Paintings by Fiona Ackerman
May 14 - 30

Diane Farris Gallery
1590 W. 7th Avenue
Vancouver, Canada
V6J 1S2
tel (604) 737-2629

View exhibition at on the DFG website

During the past ten years, I have produced a body of figurative as well as abstract paintings, often combining the two forms. I have been told many of my paintings are quite dark, that even the lightest, most colourful portraits seem ominous or sorrowful. A Harlequin Escapade is a departure conveying joy and playfulness seldom found in my previous work. Why any artist’s work changes is often quite personal, even unexplainable but in this case, change was inspired by a conscious decision which may have had its origins long ago.

Growing up in Montreal, I went to F.A.C.E., an elementary and high school emphasizing the fine arts. Theatre, art and music were part of the core curriculum with the same importance as math and science. I loved music and was very shy. For the first few years I sat among 10 other flutists and safely played as part of a group. As a teenager, I found a burst of courage and asked to switch to the French horn. I practiced like mad to be able to rejoin the group and when I did, I was no longer safe in a wash of whistling flutes. I now sat alone with my strange, awkward and loud new instrument, fully exposed.

This was a big step outside of my comfort zone. The instrument itself is a cumbersome mess of awkward metal tubing. Becoming proficient enough to hold my own in the band meant learning how to turn a challenge into something quite beautiful. As I was no longer sitting among the flutes but off to the other side with trumpets and tubas, I was able to hear the music from an entirely new perspective. This was a rediscovery of something I’d thought I knew quite well.

I mention all of this because these paintings are in a way my new French horn. Over the past decade, I have developed a certain style, established a palette of colours that seem to work within the safety zone of experience. These new paintings represent a conscious challenge to face the unfamiliar. I made a decision to reach for colours that I would normally have shied away from. Standing over a blank canvas or an unfinished painting at the studio, I would often ask myself “what wouldn’t I normally do now?” – then do it. As with learning the French horn, I sought out what I would previously have considered too loud or awkward, and tried to tame or craft it into a satisfying composition. By changing my approach, changing perspective, I was able to rediscover painting.

This conscious exercise in being bold not only expanded the visual vocabulary I now work from, but as importantly, it was fun! I think some of the joy of this experience comes through in these bright and playful paintings; I hope the warmth may carry through to my next work.