Artist brings calm from the chaos

Gage Gallery celebrates International Artist Day with new mom’s solo show

The Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue celebrates International Artist Day with Calm from Chaos

Artist finds calm in the chaos for her second Gage Gallery solo endeavour.

After Natalie Shumka’s first solo show, Offspring, in homage to her two children, she looked around and thought “Now what am I going to do?”

So she started painting colours, or more precisely, she started painting white, just to kick-start something new. Then she got pregnant, but with the solo schedule set at the artist collective Gage Gallery, she figured the show must go on.

“I learned to let housework and laundry go, because I had to, and I worked away on my show,” Shumka said. “I still worked, and I had him, then I put him in a wrap and painted away. It was so chaotic and the time has gone so fast. Elliot’s seven months now.”

While the pregnancy was healthy, she was exhausted and sick for most of it. The older children, Zoe, 8, and Thomas, 6,  took on more responsibility and mom took a little less to make time for art.

“As I’m looking at the work now I can see the shift from when I was pregnant. I don’t think any viewer would be conscious of that but I am.”

Viewers have a chance to see the works during Calm from Chaos that runs now through Nov. 5 at Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue.

“For whatever reason, no matter how chaotic my life is, my paintings are always incredibly calm and quiet, because that is where my quiet space is. No matter what I can’t control in my life, I can always control my paintings,” she said. “My paintings, I’m not surprised, became a little more focused after I had him. When you’re pregnant, you’re focusing really on growing a baby. So the pieces I did then they’re good but they don’t have as much of a focus. After I had him, there seemed to be more of a connectedness. It could be because I started going to the beach more.”

A third youngster meant a new, larger vehicle and relearning parallel parking. In one multi-purpose visit to Esplanade, near Willows Beach, her dad tuned up her parking skills, she scored some seagull photos for her latest work and spent some time with the kids at the beach.

“I had already been using sand and driftwood as subjects in my paintings, but that trip to the beach, I started going in a slightly different route on white things,” she said.

Shumka graduated from Victoria College of Art as class valedictorian in 1999 and worked as a full-time artist for the last 15 years.

Her brushwork earned her national acclaim in exhibits with the Federation of Canadian Artists and at the Sooke and Sidney fine art shows.

Her Calm from Chaos also celebrates International Artist Day Oct. 25.

“What I would like for International Artist Day is for people to really appreciate … like a doctor or a lawyer artists have a practice. It takes time and dedication and the painting or the sculpture or the photograph is the result of a lot of hours. I think people forget that as they look at a painting. I would like people to appreciate the sheer amount of time that goes into a piece.”

“Sometimes people don’t take into account the hours of training an artist does,” she said.

The value can be overlooked in a small or seemingly simple work, but behind every piece are a few “stinkers” hiding in the studio.

“Those are the ones you learn from and you need to have some of those,” Shumka said.

“I can build on that and make it right in the next piece.”

Calm from Chaos runs to Nov. 5 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Shumka will be on hand in the gallery Saturday Oct. 22.