Local multimedia artist Deryk Houston is seeking peace.
After three trips to Iraq and witnessing the nightmare inside the Ameriyah bomb shelter, Houston took to the fields and coastlines surrounding his home on Vancouver Island and to the wilderness of northeastern B.C. in search of an alternative to the darkness.
What he found has manifested itself into 30 paintings, all acrylic on canvas, now on display at Eclectic Gallery in Oak Bay in the exhibition Blackbirds, Stooked Wheat and Prayers, on display until April 7.
“Landscapes can be old fashioned, but they can also be one of the most contemporary things going depending on how you approach it,” says Houston.
Houston often paints on location outside en plein air, just without the pretention of the term he likens to the famous “Papier Mache” episode of Seinfeld.
“I always say I don’t do it, but in reality I paint outdoors all the time. I love to paint outdoors but I don’t think there’s a need to qualify it like that, like suddenly it’s got more savoir faire.”
“I try to be as grounded and pure as I can be in my approach, but I’ve got an ego just like everybody else,” says Houston.
After studying art at Langara College and Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Houston spent some time at L’ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
He started off in realism, painting Mac trucks accurate right down to the fine details. As time went on, he started using larger brushes and was influenced by other artists, including Emily Carr and Jack Shadbolt.
Now he spends most of his days working away in his home studio in Oak Bay.
“I love taking a big canvas that’s completely white and slathering paint all over it. It’s so exciting. It’s every bit as exciting as the first time,” he says.
Houston is also an accomplished sculptor, with large scale outdoor earthen ground art projects in Canada, Scotland and Iraq in support of children’s rights.
His earthen work Peace Sanctuary near the Bennett Dam in northeastern B.C. features the primitive faces of a mother and child formed out of hundreds of tonnes of gravel, moved into mounds by a bulldozer.
In phase two of the project, Houston plans to remove the faces and replace them with a sculpture park, including a sculpture inspired by a young peace activist from Indiana.
“My whole thing is about conflict and struggles and trying to find peace in my world. It can be a scary place but I think we can improve it.”
Houston’s work was featured in the National Film Board of Canada documentary, From Baghdad to Peace Country (Directed by Sherry Le Page).
His work has been exhibited in one-man exhibitions in the former Soviet Union, Scotland, Iraq, and the U.S., and is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
His installation Seeking Peace is on display at the Nanaimo Art Gallery until April 14. M
Blackbirds, Stooked Wheat and Prayers
Art by Deryk Houston
(2170 Oak Bay)
Until April 7