Visually Speaking: Figures of the Land

Anna Horsnell

Friends and artists Simone Labuschagne and Elizabeth Sircom are partnering in a new exhibition running from September 18 to October 16 at ArtCan Gallery in Canning. Labuschagne is a painter. Sircom creates sculpture. Together they will present the evocative Figures of the Land.

The ladies met about five years ago through the world of art, as their husbands are both well-known local artists (Labuschagne is married to Steven Rhude and Sircom is married to Arnaud Béghin.) The two women considered a joint exhibition about a year and a half ago, pre-pandemic. Neither of them wanted to rush the work against a deadline and so each took the time to create at their own pace. It was also important to both of the artists that the theme of the show evolve from the work, not the other way around. Details gelled in the last few months, so it would seem the stars aligned just as they should.

Labuschagne shares her inspiration in her artist’s statement: “Some of my most recent paintings, both figurative and landscape, are exhibited in this show. The landscape and seascape pieces combine Nova Scotia inspiration with visual memories from a childhood in coastal England and an adolescence in rural Iowa. The mixing and melding of these experiences is at the root of the paintings. My reference is varied – drawn, imagined, old photographs or actual landscape. All these create the beginning concept. From this beginning the painting itself is born as the piece is molded and scraped and layered in paint. Eventually its own voice emerges and the painting arrives in the physical world. The figurative paintings follow a similar path…In the end the figures reveal themselves to me out of the layers of paint.”

Sircom’s creative process is quite different. Favouring a more classical approach, she begins with a fully-formed image already in mind, very constructed, with little room for compromise. Though originally from the Annapolis Valley, Sircom received her art training in Paris, France and then lived and worked as a professional artist in Le Havre, Normandy for 20 years. She remembers, “after many hours of sketching in French museums over several years I realized that my sketchbooks were filled with drawings of sculptures and that I was always attracted to their dancelike, gestural qualities. A visit to the collection of Henry Moore plaster casts in the Art Gallery of Ontario during a stopover on a trip home clinched it for me: I had to try this for myself.”

Building towards a show like this is hard work. Why do they create art? Labuschagne answers immediately: “Without it, I don’t feel whole. It balances my life.” Sircom takes it further, suggesting art is, “one of the places where a human being can be unique. It is a lived experience that is unique, a sense of existing through a medium. It is not just about me.” Both artists are excited to see their work in the gallery. They expect the pieces will really push off each other, creating something new in their combination.

Happily, all are welcome to the opening on Saturday afternoon, September 18. See Figures of the Land at ArtCan Gallery, 9850 Main Street, Canning, open 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Visit the gallery’s website at artcan.com.

Image: The Marshland by Simone Labuschagne.