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A brush with nature
Layla Haroon (Contributor)

21 November 2007

Douglas Grenville whose paintings are currently on display at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi explains his technique of infusing feelings to his artworks

HAVING GROWN up isolated in the dense woods of northern Ontario and having spent his later years as a botanist, Douglas Grenville’s memory is brimful with images of life forms.

It is this intense love for nature that motivates his paintings.

“My art seeks out nature,” says Douglas Grenville whose exhibition is on at the Cultural Foundation.

“It is my style of conserving it perpetually. The lines, shapes and colours are those that reside within me from an intimate relationship with nature, and many hours of microscopic examination. I try to sense the intense delicate interdependence of life. This discovery invigorates my motivation.”

Douglas’s birth in Canada, and his subsequent life (with a Masters degree in Botany and a bachelors degree in Science) in Australia, Netherlands, and Switzerland for 16 years have nurtured the painter in him. Especially, those memorable flashes that ripened in the midst of hundreds of lakes within the impenetrable Boreal forests.

“I would sit still for hours in the Boreal, fascinated by the wildlife that would slowly reveal itself, coming out from its hiding places, sharing its secrets with me; the rays of light that penetrated in dark waters when pickerel glided beneath, when earth's odours rose from floating spruce bogs,” recalls Douglas. “Today I try to recapture these moments; it was my personal theatre. It will always be part of me.”

artNeedless to say, his reminiscences developed various ways of spreading paint and fuelled a wild technique. They have, in part, a life of their own that generate both mystery and depth. Grenville defines his style as abstract, which is also impressionistic.  Perhaps, the artist insists, it needs a new name.

The mediums, says Douglas, always restricts and limits possibilities for the artist. “The artist must master the medium to overcome these limits and realise his work.  I work constantly with my mediums to turn the two dimensions of the canvas into a matrix that expresses what I want,” he says.

Nevertheless, in this approach, he is never without ideas. A painting must tell a story, he stresses, revealing this tactic further. It should be like a poem, that must strike an emotional chord when first read, and then intensify that same feeling when explored.

“I paint first with an idea of something that attracts me. For example, light penetrating a forest, the ripples wind makes on sand and the shadows they cast. Then, I search for the feelings I had when I walked through such a landscape. When I get the two, I mix the idea and feelings and filter it through my memory,” says Douglas. His next interest is in Arabian art, which is ancient yet modern in many ways.

“Deserts have such beauty and force and I want to know more about how artists express their relationship with deserts,” he explains the attraction. “I did not expect my art to lead me to know people better. This is one of riches of being an artist.”


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