The Landscape Art of Antoine Gaber by Argelia Castillo Cano

ArgeliaCastillo

Argelia Castillo

Member of the International Art Critics Association (AICA) and the International Scientific Committee of Art Critics, for the Biennale of Florence, Italy
 

Translated from Spanish, unedited quote

“A work of art is a corner of nature seen
through a temperament.”
Emile Zola

With undeniable intuition and great deals of passion, Canadian artist, Antoine Gaber evokes nature’s spectacle through his symphony of color orchestrated by light. His landscapes, which represent nature scenes, vegetation, maritime scenes, river views and floral fantasies, constitute a naturalistic poetry whose ultimate purpose lies in exalting life.

Gaber represents nature not just as a plain descriptive exercise or a faithful reproduction of the shapes of the objects but as a wise transcription of a language permeated by his profound emotion. The transposition that takes place in his canvases, that is, his treatment of the natural world seen by the image’s capacity of lyrical suggestion expresses the obvious sense he possesses of communion with nature.

As a matter of fact, the nature that Gaber represents is never a tame or domesticated world but a never ending source of creative inspiration and existential pleasure. If the evocative transfiguration of the specific pictorial genre means the study of the environment, then we can’t help to notice the vocation that this self-taught landscape painter has as a constant observer. As a traveling artist, his tireless eyes search around for situations in whose presence he can tint his canvasses, this being a journey through European rivers and fields or when crossing the Canadian geography from coast to coast.

In those “corners of nature” that he perceives and which he captures in his numerous paintings, there is a clear dissociation from the norms dictated by the realism of the academy. Gaber discovers in the impressionist style a complete expressive freedom similar to his sensibility and his temperament. It is a choice of style preceded by the powerful seduction that this painter, born in Cairo, felt when observing the lights and the thousands of reflections on the Egyptian river surface, in the land of the thousand-year-old cult to the sun and in a country that Herodotus described as “the Nile’s gift”.

Recovering the early influences of his native country as well as the legacy of the popular French pictorial movement of the last third of the 19th century, Gaber, in his oil canvasses, dedicates himself to portray the ephemeral impression caused by the eternally changing forms of nature. Above all, he is interested in capturing scenes in constant transformation, due to changes in the effects of light and the atmosphere and generated by the different times of day and the different seasons.

For this purpose he uses a palette where the metamorphosis of light resides: as seen in the orange light of dawn that runs through a field still submerged under the shadows (Dawn, Island View, New Brunswick, 2004) and in the ghostly greenish half-light brought to life by the moon (Moonlight on the Nile, 1998), or in the golden explosions of radiation of his very many versions of dusk (Sunset in Tuscany, 1999; Sunset on the Sea 1, 2000; Paris, Sunset on La Seine 1, 2002).

Works such as Canadian Winter Scenery 2 (2002), Hampton, N.B., Fall Reflection 2 (2003) and Spring in the Apple Orchard (1998) belong to the category of works portraying the changes of these two elements, color and light; changes generated as the result of the different details but also marked by equinox or solstice.

In the first painting the artist applies a thick amount of bluish paint – imitating an icy winter climate and spreading it as if it were a sea of snow from which islands of pine trees of sparking branches of crystallized ice are emerging. In the second one, he resorts to several reddish spots that stand out in the green shades, impregnating the autumnal foliage with a last promise of warmth. In the third one, he uses very tiny brushes of color to portray a landscape bathed by the sun on a well-lit spring day.

The richness of colors and the freedom of his brush together with the way he organizes space at times make the shapes melt together and become one another (Sailing at Sunset 1, 2004). Sometimes shapes are shown slightly outlined depending on the progressive degradation of the elements in the background (La Seine Near Giverny, 1999)

More often, the work of this painter, born in 1957, give a great deal of importance to the objects in the fore-ground , crowded with masses of water or vegetation and whose waves convey a sort of dynamism to the work of art in which different shapes of diffuse outlines are emerging. (Sailing in Rough Sea, Normandy, 2001; Poppies Beyond the Village, 1999).

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Daydreaming Young Girl in the Garden, 2000.

Due to the fact that nature is always the protagonist in Gaber’s paintings, very seldom observe human figures in them. When present, they purposely lack of physical details and yet find themselves harmoniously immersed in a landscape full of light and color, such as in Daydreaming Young Girl in the Garden, 2000.

However, in some of his works, the human figure is not an intruder in the solitary greatness of nature, but a presence brought to life by the objects which are witness to its trace: in the marinas, light-houses, small boats; in landscapes, country houses, barns, fences, and particularly in paths or lanes.

Those paths often bordered by symmetrical arrangements of hedges or blooming bushes (Garden in Giverny, 2001 and 2002) or rhythmical rows of trees with branches through which the sun rays are filtered (Forest Path in the afternoon, 2004), guide our glance in its journey through the canvas.

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Daffodils, Still Life 1, 2002

We also have to note the artist’s choice to portray not just panoramic landscapes but also other topics not so extensive in Nature. For instance, we need to emphasize his plentiful production of water-lily theme such as the series entitled “Water Lilies” featuring some twenty works painted between the years of 1998 and 2003.

Encouraged by his tenacious will of capturing in his paintings the vision of the precise instant offered by the vibration of light on the water surface (fact that lead Claude Monet and his water lilies to the extreme limits of Impressionism and even to the threshold of abstraction), Gaber starts his pilgrimage to the water gardens of Giverny.

He devotes himself to his own search in the waters of different ponds, representing the appealing complexities of this medium, where big flat leaves with multicolored petals are floating, mixed with an endless range of different shades that have been created by reflections of the sky, the clouds and the vegetation growing on the banks.

His still-life deserves special attention as well, especially the ones with a floral theme. In his vertical arrangements, the artist represents bunches of asters, tulips, ivy-flowers, daffodils, daisies, roses and irises, organizing them with spontaneity inside the vases that appear in the centre of the composition (Daffodils, Still Life 1, 2002).

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Poppies in the Garden 7, 2004

A fortunate range of his interplay of colors and forms, where spherical arrangement of flowers appears in contrast to the angular shape of the stems, and where bright tones of the buds and the petals come to life on the neutral tones of the background. The artist reaches an even further level when he discards the use of vases, allowing suddenly the sun-flowers, poppies, agapanthus and wild flowers to just grow in a lush and free manner onto the canvas (Poppies in the Garden 7, 2004), which now transforms his still-life’s into pieces of “Nature” just bursting with life.

In the metaphor that celebrates the power of life, in the eloquence of the language that conveys the energy of nature and its endless flowing, in his choice of an artistic genre that renews its expressive capacity for postmodern sensibility, in the celebration of colors, in the quiet views that make us ponder, in the profound emotion in which the audience becomes involved, in the aesthetic disclosure as a celebration of plenitude…. that is where the secret of the beauty of Gaber’s paintings lie.

Argelia Castillo Cano, Uruapan, Michoacán, México
August 2005

Argelia Castillo Cano – (México, D.F. 1958)

Sociologist. She has written articles about culture and visual arts for Mexican newspapers such as Reforma and La Voz de Michoacán, and also for specialized magazines such us Art Nexus (Colombia-US). She has also written essays on contemporary art for numerous catalogues and publications. She is a member of The International Association of Art Critics (IAAC) and the International Scientific Committee of the Biennal of Florencia, Italy. She has been a professor in the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of México. She has also coordinated and translated numerous literary and social science books for different Mexican publishing companies such as CONACULTA, Grijalbo, Océano and Trillas; and for different international organizations related to the OEA and the United Nations.