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At the Galleries: Coastal colours kick off fall shows in Greater Victoria

Seasonal transformations highlight autumn shows
Collin Elder’s oil on panel titled Snuneymuxw at Madrona Gallery. (Collin Elder)

In 2020, as the world slowed, Shawn O’Keefe and Collin Elder set out on painting trips into the mountains, forests and shorelines of southern Vancouver Island.

Their goal was to explore the experience of looking, to examine the structure of appearances and to find the monumental in the details. These trips have been as much about conversations about life as they have been about a continued pursuit of their painting practice and a conversation with the land. Sharing the lessons learned on these outings with one another have been at the heart of the creation of this collection of field paintings and studio explorations.

Those explorations are on display with Shawn O’Keefe & Collin Elder: Sight Visits at Madrona Gallery Oct. 7 to 21 with an opening reception Oct. 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Visit for more.

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West End Gallery brings Jenna D. Robinson’s Wild Woods to the walls Oct. 14 to 26.

Robinson’s solo art exhibition skillfully merges the unexpected combination of coastal arbutus and mountainous larch trees.

Arbutus trees take us to the edge of land, where rock meets water, and larch trees stroll along the loftiest mountain slopes, where rock meets sky. Arbutus trees, with their contorted forms and tough wood, paradoxically possess bark as soft and smooth as paper.

Conversely, larch trees bear the marks of time in their battered, gnarled and twisted trunks, yet their needles offer a tactile elegance akin to cashmere among tree foliage. In spring, arbutus trees burst forth with vibrantly coloured bark, transitioning from deep crimson to radiant orange hues before shedding to reveal their pale yellow trunks.

Throughout the spring and summer, larch trees are resplendent in green, though in autumn larch needles momentarily transform into a brilliant gold before falling to the forest floor for winter. Despite inhabiting seemingly contrasting worlds, larch and arbutus trees share profound similarities. Not only do they thrive in these seemingly inhospitable environments, but their most striking features are born of their enduring struggle and ultimate success.

This exhibition holds personal significance for Robinson, as it reflects her upbringing spent exploring the larch-draped mountains of the Rockies during the initial chapter of her life and her more recent years living seaside in Squamish, B.C. Robinson’s art is a bold testament to her realistic style, which flirts with elements of abstraction, amplifying contrast and saturating colours to create mesmerizing scenes where light weaves a tapestry of brilliant highlights and deep shadows.

When she isn’t painting or playing in the mountains, you can find her teaching elementary school part-time or exploring with her adventure buddy, Wren.

West End hangs a second exhibition of the month with Dana Irving Nature and Nurture from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9.

A Vancouver-based landscape painter, Irving’s paintings spark admiration and contemplation in the viewer, inviting them to guess at the stories that unfold in her unique landscapes. Her work has been compared to both Emily Carr and Dr. Seuss, and both hold her incredibly creative approaches to painting the Canadian landscape. Irving’s use of striking, saturated colour and smooth, seamless brushwork create a mesmerizing combination to entice reflection and celebration. Masterfully capturing the landscapes we hold dear, the artist’s sense of wonder and awe for place are unmatched.

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The Avenue Gallery brings The Quality of Light, a solo exhibition by Maria Josenhans to Oak Bay this month.

Josenhans has been practising art for more than three decades. Her early formal training earned her a BFA at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and laid the groundwork for her ever-evolving sensibilities, the focus of which is connecting and reconnecting with the natural world. Her painting career has been directed, informed and inspired by long periods of immersion in travel, dance and large-format photography. Born and raised in the New England area of the U.S., Josenhans brings her innate aesthetic to the West Coast landscape she now calls home.

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Her contemporary landscapes are about light, shape and her unguarded moments in nature. Sourced from locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, the paintings reflect the familiarity and ease she feels within the landscape.

Her first solo show at The Avenue Gallery, The Quality of Light runs Oct. 5 to 19.

Visit for more.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria presents Unexpected: The Life and Art of Sophie Pemberton, Canadian Artist now through the rest of 2023.

Victoria-born and raised, Pemberton was the middle daughter, her father’s favourite and a determined personality. Despite episodes of debilitating illnesses and family tragedies, she pursued a serious international artistic career with paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy and Paris Salon. A portraitist by training, she was also a landscape painter of great talent. Through her international connections and friendships forged at art school in England and France with the advantages of birth and position, Pemberton aimed to become a professional artist, a career not readily accomplished by a woman at this time in history.

The exhibition is curated by Kathryn Bridge, curator emerita, Royal BC Museum, an adjunct faculty member in the history department at the University of Victoria, author and editor of several books on B.C. history, art and the role of women in early B.C.

“A central theme runs through her story, for it is unexpected occurrences or happenings that both shaped and shifted Pemberton’s decision-making, influenced her career and its trajectory,” said Bridge. “Unexpected is learning about a significant Canadian artist in our midst whose actions we now see as inspirational, who with a few others, led the way for Canadian women artists overseas, challenging gender barriers within the profession. Unexpected is the opportunity to view many works that have not been publicly seen before, or for almost 50 years.”

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The show runs through Jan. 21, 2024 and features 70 paintings from the AGGV, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Royal BC Museum and BC Archives, Hamilton Art Gallery and loans from private collections as well as archival materials including photo albums, letters and diaries.

Visit for more.

Unexpected: The Life and Art of Sophie Pemberton, Canadian Artist is at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria now through Jan. 21, 2024. (Courtesy Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Unexpected: The Life and Art of Sophie Pemberton, Canadian Artist is at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria now through Jan. 21, 2024. (Courtesy Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Unexpected: The Life and Art of Sophie Pemberton, Canadian Artist is at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria now through Jan. 21, 2024. (Courtesy Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Floating In Indigo by Maria Josenhans is part of The Quality of Light at The Avenue Gallery from Oct. 5 to 19. (Courtesy The Avenue Gallery)
In The Cool Of The Aspens by Maria Josenhans is part of The Quality of Light at The Avenue Gallery from Oct. 5 to 19. (Courtesy Avenue Gallery)
Devil’s Gold by Jenna D. Robinson is part of Wild Woods at West End from Oct. 14 to 26. (Courtesy West End Gallery)
Summer Magic by Dana Irving is part of the Nature and Nurture exhibition at West End Gallery from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9. (Courtesy West End Gallery)