They are jumping for joy. They are jumping off things. They are just jumping.
Red Deer-raised artist Erin Boake’s latest exhibit of paintings, on this month at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Red Deer, is called The Jumpers. In it, isolated figures are depicted leaping through undefined space, sort of like the photographs of astronauts floating outside space capsules.
Boake, who studied ballet for many years at the Red Deer College Conservatory of Dance, said she’s always been attracted to the shapes of people in motion.
To obtain models, she asked a few friends to jump off railings and swings and on trampolines while she took photographs of them. A few of her action figures were also painted from pre-existing photos that Boake found in clipping files.
Despite some of her subjects’ joyful facial expressions, Boake’s paintings leave a striking, solitary impression. “Anonymous space has always been kind of a theme for me,” admitted Boake, adding, “I’m not sure, maybe it’s growing up in the Prairies, but I’m used to having lots of space around me.”
Some her backgrounds are solid, bold colours. Some resemble surrealistic clouds, made more René Magritte-like by Boake’s depiction of kinetic figures peering out from inside cut-away shapes. “Those are experimental, with people falling through other people’s negative spaces,” she said.
One oil painting, Joyful Explosion, features a background sunburst of oranges, reds and yellows, reinforcing the exuberant expression on the face of the female figure.
Another painting, on primed birch board, shows the same, bent-over person in large and small incarnations, like patterned wallpaper with depth.
Green Drop shows a boy in a 1940s-style striped sweater vest in motion. Yellow Drop shows the same boy, but with blurred lines suggesting a fall rather than a jump.
Boake wants the focus to be on the figure. More specifically, she wants viewers to concentrate on the figures’ forms.
The mystery of who these individuals are and what they are doing appeals to the artist. “Within the anonymous space, people may wonder who are these people? Where are they falling to? What are the circumstances” behind their motions?
The 29-year-old completed the Red Deer College visual arts program, then went to finish the Alberta College of Art and Design program in 2003.
Since then, she’s lived across Canada, including Montreal, Nova Scotia and Nunavut, where Boake has been a contracted drawing instructor at the Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaliut.
When she isn’t somewhere else, Boake, who has exhibited her work at the Agora Gallery in New York City, feels right at home in Central Alberta. “I’m not a big city girl anymore. I don’t like the traffic,” admitted the artist, who lives in Ponoka and feels no shortage of local artistic opportunities.
“I find I’ve had to make my own opportunities,” added Boake, who’s taught art through the City of Red Deer and at the Summerscapes program for teenagers at Red Deer College.
She’s also painted local murals, including a work-in-progress at Sunworks.
The Jumpers continues to July 29 at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Sunworks at 4924 Ross St. For more information, visit www.erinboake.com.