This month’s featured artist at the King Street Gallery is Bonnie Brooks, one of five children raised on her family’s homestead in Adolphustown, Ontario.
Brooks completed a Fine Arts degree at the University of Guelph and had the good fortune to study under award-winning Canadian artist Carl Schaefer in his later years. Schaefer was born in Hanover, Ontario and found inspiration for his water colours in the rural landscape of Southern Ontario.
“There is one thing every painter must do and this is to know his environment…and achieve a proper balance between the technical means and the emotional expression.” – Carl Schaefer
Brooks seeks to achieve this “balance between technical means and emotional expression” through her medium and subject matter. As for technique, she moves in and out of mediums and is known to experiment with different styles of art. She previously painted in water colour and became a member of The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. One of her water colour paintings is displayed at Windsor Castle as part of The Queen’s Royal Collection of Drawings and Watercolours. However, since 2008, she has primarily focused on acrylic.
As for subject matter, Brooks’ fondness for her rural upbringing influences her work. Although she may paint a landscape, a still life or an abstract, there is a recurring rural theme to her work.
As owner and curator of the King Street Gallery, Gina Edward says with a smile, “typical Bonnie,” as she describes the subject matter in a painting of a pair of rubber boots. Edward explains how Brooks returns again and again to worn shoes, buckets, work boots, things that would have been used on her family’s farm. The artist features these simple items by playing with shadow and light. In one painting of an old worn pair of loafers, Edward points out how Brooks uses light and shadow to give the shoes the appearance as if they are “lit up, like the shoes are on stage and the colour in “the background is like music,” which provides a “nice harmony” to the shoes.
“Her use of shadow and colour is beautiful,” Edward says of the featured artist.
Brooks’ work reminds Edward of a quote by Francisco de Goya, “Always lines, never forms! But where do they find these lines in Nature? For my part I see only forms that are lit up and forms that are not. There is only light and shadow.”
Edward is delighted to have Brooks’ work in her gallery. She explained that Brooks approached her about having her work displayed at the gallery by sending Edward some images and information. Edward decided to display Brooks’ work and make her a featured artist because she appreciates the way Brooks chooses her subject matter, “beautiful yet utilitarian and relatable.” She believes Brooks’ work evokes a “surge of nostalgia” and memories for the viewer.
The subject matter is familiar, old buckets, baskets, a rolling pin, even old paint brushes that could be hanging in anyone’s shed, garage or basement. Brooks gives us a new way to look at these objects, with reverence and for their beauty which we overlook when we simply use them and set them aside. She highlights that connection between objects and people.
As the artist says, “light, shadow, and sense of space are an integral part of my work. My still life pieces often include utilitarian objects: tools, work boots, buckets, timeworn items that raise questions of their history and the people that used them.”
Brooks’ work helps us to appreciate everyday items, everyday moments and cherish the present and hold dear the past with the memories induced from experiencing her exhibit.
The Bonnie Brooks exhibit is on until Oct. 30 and is part of the King Street Gallery’s monthly featured artists’ exhibit. Each month the gallery highlights a different Canadian artist. At the opening night reception, visitors are able to meet and chat with the artist about their works. The Gallery offers guided tours on Sundays from 10 to 11 a.m. Otherwise, all are welcome to experience and learn about Bonnie Brooks and her art along with the other artists at the Gallery during regular gallery hours. Winter hours, until May 31, are Monday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesday, when the gallery is closed.