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Houses and Horses: enchanting paintings by VASA artists

St. Albert visual artists Bruce Allen and Linda Taras have recorded their deepest passions with paint - houses and horses
Bruce Allen and Linda Taras showcase a joint collection at Houses and Horses held at VASA throughout the month of July. A reception is planned for Thursday, July 4.

Linda Taras is a modern-day master painter of horses. Her profound love for the noble animals, her personal knowledge of them, and decades-long experience combines to generate a powerful landscape.

Bruce Allen instead turns decrepit old houses and buildings into whimsical art that lifts the spirit and makes you smile. He paints with photos snapped from real-life Edmonton buildings. Drawing upon his imagination, Allen depicts the structures’ amusing personalities and quirks into charming portraits.

As members of St. Albert’s Visual Arts Studio Association (VASA), Taras and Allen have united to present their individual collections titled Houses and Horses through the month of July.

Taras’ artistic career spans more than 35 years. It included training at Guelph University, Sheridan College and the Nova Scotia School of Art where she studied painting and sculptural work.

The artist’s first equine painting titled Snow Morning took place on her farm where she raised five children. It had snowed heavily during the night and the driveway was impassable. Her young daughter, Bilinda, was leading a horse up and down the driveway hoping to flatten the snow so her father could drive to work.

“Horses represent a certain strength and a certain weakness. And they’re free. That’s what I like about wild horses. They are free. But they have the mentality of a seven-year-old. Like a seven-year-old, there must be trust between a horse and yourself, or it doesn’t work,” said Taras.

Several of her works were painted during a one-week painting workshop at British Columbia’s Flying U Ranch. All You Have Is Time is a majestic scene of horses grazing on a mountain pasture, and Running from What is an ethereal painting of a herd running in the early morning fog.

Taras paints both realistic and abstract imagery in both oil and acrylic. Her horses are not passive. Some paintings are memories. Others are invigorating landscapes. Still others are horses that have galloped out of her imagination to form timeless beauty on canvas.

They generate motion and there is a visual power to each canvas. The four-legged animals do not speak, but their body language gives clues to their personalities. They might be clumsy, agitated, graceful, playful, tired or stumbling. But each one tells their own story.

Instead, Allen graduated from Ottawa’s Carleton University’s architecture program in 1973. Employment was scarce in Ontario during the early 1970s and he moved to Alberta where he quickly found employment with Alberta Public Works.

“I took art classes at university in the 70s to get my mind off school. It was a stressful five-year program,” said Allen, adding that the painting was also one of the program’s mandatory courses.

He launched his art hobby painting with watercolours.

“It was less messy. Easier to clean up. I make pen and ink outlines and let the watercolour flow to the ink and it would naturally stop,” Allen said.

Currently, the St. Albert artist has switched to oil paints due to better control of the medium.

“It’s more lustrous and vibrant. I get to push it around wherever I want. Watercolours, you let it flow where it wants.”

Allen has painted houses and commercial buildings for more than 30 years.

“Older houses have character, and I don’t see character in newer ones. They tell a story, not only of the individuals living in it, but also of the neighbourhood.”

The slightly tilted frame, crooked windows, sagging doors, peeling paint and faded shades not only capture the architecture. It all tells a story of the people who live or work there. And in doing so, Allen lifts his landscapes out of the ordinary. Although Allen might not agree, many would consider him an urban romantic who captures people’s past, present and future.

Houses and Horses takes place at VASA, 25 Sir Winston Churchill Ave. A reception will be held Thursday, July 4 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Harpist Janet Bo-Lassen (also a visual artist) will play a mix of modern and traditional tunes.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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