Cold Lake artist’s painting selected for display at worldwide gathering

Cold Lake artist Patricia Coulter has been selected to show one of her works at a major conference this fall.

The International Society of Experimental Artists (ISEA) is holding its symposium in Canada for the first time. The conference, titled Innovations, will be held in St. Albert September 1 to 6.

“I saw it advertised as a call for artists and I was intrigued by the title ‘Innovations,’” Coulter said. “You were only allowed one entry so I sent in one painting, and I was quite amazed that I was one of the artists chosen.”

The symposium will host artists from all over the world. Some of the work is experimental in its subject matter, some uses new and experimental art media. 

“There is going to be fabulous things, I’m sure, that will see people use found objects or they use different kinds of papers, or they do sculpture or casting or all sorts of things,” Coulter said. “I’m just thrilled that I’m part of this.”

Her submission is an abstract painting called “With Mountains To Climb.” Coulter said that while the medium and the technique aren’t necessarily experimental, her approach to the subject is.

“I wasn’t using different things, but I was experimenting with a minimal line,” she said. The title refers to a line “with rivers to swim and mountains to climb” from the Rose Milligan poem Dust If You Must.

“It also reminded me of the poem by Earl Birney called David, and he talks about how mountains for David were meant to see over. And I just felt that this painting really captured the beauty of the mountains and distilled it down into a real abstract, basic form,” Coulter said.

“I think one of the challenges of being an abstract painter is to keep it simple. It’s so easy to go into the land of overworked. And I really felt I used a minimum amount of strokes to create a scene of being in the mountains, and the beauty of the mountains and nature and all these things that we have on hand for us.”

While the world is coming to St. Albert for the ISEA symposium, Coulter says it’s a nice change to have such a major event right close by. Her work is displayed all over the world, and shipping large canvases can be a challenge.

“It’s a treat that I can drive the painting there myself and not have to ship it overseas or something,” she said. “It’s wonderful to say you have had a painting and a show in another country like say, Singapore, but the logistics of getting the painting there—especially my work, which is very large—equals ‘very expensive.’  So this is going to be a great thrill just to be able to go and see it myself.”

But what excites Coulter the most about the symposium is the opportunity to see what other artists are doing. “I think it’s going to be very encouraging and inspiring. There’s a size limit, and there is only one entry per person, so it’ll be fascinating to see the variety.”

And while people might picture an artist toiling away in solitude, the true nature of art is a big world of continuous development, innovation, and mutual inspiration—not just among fellow artists, but with the viewing public as well.

Coulter said the work isn’t finished until it has been seen.

“Part of the cycle is we need viewers, we need people to look at it. And whether they like it or hate it, it’s all part of completing the cycle,” she said. “It’s just like a person playing music in an empty room or a playwright writing plays that no one sees. They need the audience, we need the feedback. We need to complete the full cycle.”

And that’s where the public comes in. Coulter says an artwork will speak to you—or not—regardless of whether you have a trained eye. What’s important is stopping to take a look.

“I would just encourage people to attend a show, whether it’s this art show or just to support local arts and see what people are doing. And to have an open mind—just go and enjoy it,” she said.

And she also has advice for other artists whether they are accomplished, aspiring, or just creating things for fun:

“Keep going, keep doing it,” she said. “Looking for supportive people in your life will help you and keep your skin hardened to it, but just enjoy it. Do it for yourself and see what happens.”

“Canyon,” “Take The Night Train,” and “With Mountains To Climb” by Cold Lake artist Patricia Coulter. SUBMITTED