ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
With whitecaps blowing like loose brushstrokes across Tofino’s cobalt-blue harbour outside the window, Main Street Gallery is the ideal space to showcase Mary Patricia Deveau’s dramatic seascapes in acrylic.
“Loose” is the word that, for Deveau, encompasses more than her own brushstrokes; it’s her state of mind absorbed in that full-bodied action of painting.
“The paintings I end up liking down the road take less effort and come out of me in a loose way,” she says.
Like the wistful ‘Summer Has Gone,’ a personal favourite that, she says, “strikes an emotional chord: something that came out without force. Without thinking. I painted this so freely, like a child.”
Instead she thinks only about “the wildness in the sky,” translating the ephemeral from a general idea about what she wants to create.
“It comes from memory and how I feel. I spend a lot of time on a sailboat and the sky is constantly changing,” she says. “It’s not just going with gut instinct. If I’ve got a preconceived notion in my mind, I take that notion away…It gives me so much joy living in that moment,” she says, “having a conversation with the painting.”
Deveau simply reacts and responds in her in-home studio daily, dancing along to ’70s music.
“It doesn’t reveal itself until it’s time.”
During that period, “when you wonder if it’s time to stop, or not,” she may set a painting aside to fully embrace or repurpose it, lending rich texture as an underpainting.
The artist’s ‘happy spot’ is when people experience that profound connection to those magnetic skies—like the elderly Norwegian lady captivated by a calm sea and stormy grey sky conjuring ‘home’ for her.
While Deveau paints “loose,” admiring Monet’s loose work and Joni Mitchell’s gestural painting, she applies colour theory, drawing from nature’s exquisite and ever-changing palette. She is influenced by Colour Field painters Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and Richard Diebenkorn, who used colour to provoke an emotional response. When people would “break down and cry” Rothko knew he had tapped into their basic humanity.
Describing this art movement’s pull between abstract and figurative, what landscape is and isn’t, Deveau might easily be referencing the chimeric nature of the ocean escalating from “Wind Dance” to “Squall” to “Torment” as your eye flits across the gallery each image a flickering frame in a complex moving picture.
Obtaining her BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, via a sister program at North Island College, allowed Deveau to remain at home in Comox and closer to those wild skies that inspire her.
What resonates for gallery owner Dorothy Baert is “art inspired by the natural world and a sense of place and how it is expressed,” she says.
“Art that inquires and gives us another way of perceiving what is in our environment.”
Baert’s mission is to connect people with the natural world and how we see our place in it.
Deveau’s seascapes and sculpture are at Main Street Gallery at Tofino Sea Kayaking until the end of June.