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"Sympoiesis" by Heather Close. // Courtesy of the Christine Klassen Gallery.

Calgary Artist Heather Close talks joys of painting on paper

By Troy Hasselman, March 17 2020—

The Christine Klassen Gallery will be presenting the second edition of Pyromania, an exhibition celebrating paper-based art works from some of Calgary’s up-and-coming artists such as Rick Ducommun and Heather Close. 

Close’s past work themes of man vs. nature and illustrates the resilience of the natural world and speaks to some prescient issues surrounding the relationship between humans and nature. While she has previously worked in sculpting she has recently began working with paper as her main medium. Her recent works have illustrated the power of the natural world to thrive under adversity.

“My past works were sculptures that were based on man-made vs. nature and they were about ruin, regrowth and rebirth,” Close says. “I did a lot of sculptures of houses that were redrawn. I’m more focused on just the natural and organic life forms rather than bringing in things that are man made. Because of the tension that is in the world and anxiety over climate change and climate grief, I make these pieces to be these hopeful amalgamations showing off a plant’s power and strength but also vulnerability.”

Close’s move from sculpture to paperworks as her primary medium owes to a few different factors, as she explains.

“Some of what it was was that I majored in painting and I wanted to get back into painting,” Close says. “Another part of it was because these works are based on organic forms, I felt like it was only appropriate to work on paper because that’s more of an organic medium, I felt like it lent well to the concepts I was working with. It felt weird to talk about climate and nature and be sculpting things out of a plastic polymer so that’s why I moved to paper and watercolor.”

Paper is an accessible and portable medium that offers benefits over other mediums like canvas. It is more forgiving than canvas and offers a different texture for the work compared with other artistic platforms.

“The benefit is that it’s easier to do more work, I can play more and experiment more because there isn’t the preciousness of stretching a canvas and making a mistake on it or building a sculpture that doesn’t end up working out,” Close explains. “You can start over easier with paper. I think the other thing that’s great about paper is the qualities of it, you can get a lot of texture out of paper. I’ve been playing around with coloured paper as well and I find that kind of a fun challenge and something interesting to experiment with because colours don’t show up the same on different paper so you have to mould your palette to what colours will work on top of other colours. If you have a coloured base, a green will react differently than it does on a white piece of paper.”

Close’s work is highly different stylistically compared to her counterpart Rick Ducommun in the show, who works in a more abstract style of painting. This speaks to the variety of work that can be accomplished with paper.

“I find the amazing thing about paper is you can work in different mediums,” Close says. “You can be doing collage, you can be doing heavy paint work, you can be doing more delicate work, paper can lend itself to a lot more variety and variety of techniques and mediums as well.”

Papyromania is set to run from March 21–May 2 at the Christine Klassen Gallery.

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