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Exhibit re-imagines nature at The Old Schoolhouse Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach

Chintan Bolliger hopes viewers will take away their own interpretation
Chintan Bolliger’s work is part of three fall exhibitions at TOSH in Qualicum Beach. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Chintan Bolliger re-imagines the natural world in her exhibit at the Old School House (TOSH) arts centre in Qualicum Beach.

Her paintings begin with a love of the natural world, in its beauty and fragility. Bolliger said her works are inspired by the constant shifting of light, shapes, colour and time in the outdoors.

“I walk through them and I get these hints, these inspirations of a moment,” she said. “It’s really what most interests me, is the impermanence of nature — and not just by what we humans have done to destroy it, but just nature itself.”

The paintings in Alive: The Natural World Reimagined show nature in a way that is open to the viewer’s interpretation.

Bolliger added she will hint at what she consider’s a painting’s theme in its title, but she is careful not to over-dictate. “Because sometimes people tell me what they’re seeing, and it’s like, ‘oh, where did that come from? But how cool is that?’ So I’m really happy to have it be read as whatever by the viewer.”

She begins each painting with an intention, which determines what its core shape will be. Bolliger lays down a very thick acrylic texturer as a base, with no colour.

As she adds the colours and glazes, she scrapes them across this textured surface, which catches the paint in its own way not necessarily determined by Bolliger. Depending on how it looks, she might continue, or wipe it away and start again.

“The whole fun for me, and what keeps my painting alive to me, is that there is a little bit of an unknown quality,” she said. “I still make choices along the way, but its basically like I’ve developed this technique to sidestep my mind. I’m quite a heady kind of person and so it’s really satisfying to put that aside and just go with what happens.”

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Bolliger was born in Zurich, Switzerland, where she received her formal art education at the University of the Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule), followed by two years at F+F Art School for conceptual and experimental exploration.

Before settling on Salt Spring Island 30 years ago, she lived and worked around the world. Bolliger has shown her work in solo and group shows in Switzerland, Hawaii and B.C.

One of the most rewarding things for her is overcoming a challenge during the painting process. Bolliger pointed to two works in the TOSH exhibit, ‘Torn’ and ‘Finding Form’, which took some figuring out in the original texturing stage, but in the end she was pleased with the result.

She was also happy with a piece called ‘Biological Code’, which hung in her living room for about six months last year. Bolliger said this piece is about taking it down to the molecular level and what can be below that.

“The work is galactic and also cellular, it can go both ways,” said Illana Hester, TOSH executive director. “You can picture these as under a microscope, but you can also picture these as through a telescope.”

Bolliger loves living in the country. She gardens for both food and beauty and takes every opportunity to enjoy a meal on her deck.

She said she is concerned about humanity’s impact on the natural world, but doesn’t want to preach or overstate any message with her artwork.

One of her latest pieces is ‘Last of its Kind’, which for her evokes a bittersweet feeling about the state of the environment.

“When it was finished, for me, there was a wistfulness about it,” Bolliger said. “Like yeah, this is still there, but just barely and it’s something we all feel strongly as we’re walking through the world and looking at the world.”

Alive: The Natural World Reimagined will be on display at TOSH (122 Fern Rd W) until Oct. 29.

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