Jane Eccles and the Canadian Waterscape

Embrace II
Canadians have a love and connection with the lakes like no other. It isn't even necessary to put it into words – we just know. Whether we are near, on or in the water, the feeling of purification and completeness is abound.

Canadian artist and performer, Jane Eccles, truly captures Canadiana in her painting series known as ‘water’. One look at her images, and we know of childhood summers at the cottage, or that feeling when you first jumped into the lake, or the peace of sitting by the water’s edge on a hot summers day. Powerful images indeed.

As Jane recalls “My roots are around water.” Born in the Ottawa valley, she spent a great deal of her early childhood close to the Rideau water system. Her family moved to North Bay near Trout Lake when she was about ten years old, and this started her relationship with the ‘dark navy lakes’ so well associated with the northern parts of this province. She also attributes this area with the ice and snow in all of her imagery. In addition, and “key to the water paintings”, Jane frequented a cottage on Lake Kassabog and the nearby Petroglyphs Provincial Park. As Jane recalls, it was here that “something very deep rooted happened. Something primal. Soon an imagined female figure emerged that I was adding to this classic Canadian landscape – waterscape.”

The water series, fifty pieces painted in the 1990’s, coincides with a difficult time for Jane personally as key figures in her family had died. This loss brought to light her own history, as she recalls, “I became aware that I am a 7th generation Canadian – with maternal roots in Nova Scotia and paternal roots in the Ottawa Valley. I started to commit to the idea that my experience for painting is very local – very felt, very Canadian.” Of the cover image she says, “Embrace II was my way of being one with this feeling of the large concept of Canada.”

Black Pool
Jane also remarks that Canadian women writers influence her work. In the early part of the 1970’s, after completing her BA of Fine Art and English, and then her Bachelor of Education,  Jane landed a teaching position in Peterborough. Well known and critically praised Canadian writer Margaret Laurence lived nearby and was in the midst of one of the most significant book censorships of the time. The Diviners by Ms. Laurence was under attack by religious and conservative groups alike, a brilliant book that Jane says, “beautifully described the imagery that was floating around in my head.” Jane painted a portrait of Margaret Laurence which is included in a large installation called Patch Work at the University of Guelph Arts Building and the image was used on the cover of a biography for the writer by Patricia Morley called The Long Journey Home.

This influence of Canadian writers and authors is intertwined and flows into another series of paintings by Jane known as the ‘dresses’. She has painted garments of many strong Canadian women and they serve as a historiography of sorts represented through paint.

Woman at Lake
For more information about Jane Eccles, please visit her web site at http://www.jane.ecclesart.ca or see her work on display at the Art Gallery of Northumberland from Sept 9-Oct 18, 2014. Jane Eccles was featured on the cover of The Link Magazine for the Summer issue in 2014.


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