Artists Michael Abelman and Victoria Scudamore share the walls at Zack Gallery in the exhibit Sea to Sky. (photo by Olga Livshin)
In the exhibit Sea to Sky at Zack Gallery, the artists’ works complement each other. Michael Abelman’s seascapes and floral compositions lean towards the pensive and are a little wistful, while Victoria Scudamore’s abstract paintings add splashes of colour and joy to the gallery walls.
“I’ve always liked crafts, since I was a child,” Scudamore said in an interview with the Independent, “but I could never draw. I was a realtor for 30 years. Then, seven years ago, I fell off my bike and broke a wrist. A month later, I decided to take an art class. I thought: I couldn’t draw anyway, I would just have fun.”
She did have fun. But, also during that class, she discovered the style of intuitive, abstract painting and fell in love with it. “It resonated with me,” she recalled. She started taking more classes. “Art became a real passion of mine,” she said. “Now I have to paint every day. I don’t feel whole if I don’t paint. This is my first show, and I’m very excited about it.”
Her elation is unmistakable as she talks about her creative process.
“I’m an abstract expressionist. I try to capture emotions in my paintings,” she explained. “I want to show movement, colours in motion, to show connections. To paint abstract, I need to be in a dreamy space. I often listen to ’70s rock music and sometimes I dance when I paint. Once, I accidentally knocked off a bottle of ink onto one of my paintings, but I didn’t throw it away. I saw something in the pattern of the ink stains and painted over it, used it.”
Scudamore feels adventurous in her approach to art, ready to respond to any stimulus, be it a forest, a seashore, a flower, a bird, an ink stain or a stray thought. “I often paint two paintings at a time,” she said. “I feel freer to explore this way. Like a scientist, I experiment with colours, shapes and textures. Sometimes, I fall in love with a certain palette and do a series based on those colours. It’s all intuitive. I never know where I’ll end up when I start a painting. The beginning is the most exciting moment for me, a mystery. I’m child-like when I paint. I’m in the realm of fun.”
Her happiness in creating art makes her brave and self-confident. “I don’t compare myself with other artists,” she said. “Sure, Michael [Abelman] has been painting for 20 years; he has much more experience than I do, but I think artists shouldn’t compare with each other. It steals joy. We are all on different paths, our own paths.”
Abelman agrees with that sentiment. “I’ve been painting for 20 years but only showing for five years,” he said. “Like Victoria, I don’t compare myself with other artists, only with myself. My art is changing, evolving.”
Sea to Sky is Abelman’s second show at the Zack. His solo show in 2014 was a rainbow explosion of flowers but, this year, his paintings demonstrate a different level of maturity. Although half of his paintings are still flowers, their colours are more pastel and the ambience more contemplative. “It feels like another stage in my art and in my life,” he said. “Maybe I’m getting older.”
Half of his exhibited paintings this year are ships: in winter and in summer, in the morning mist and in the glowing sunset. “I painted ships before but, recently, I find myself drawn to them. My ship paintings are quiet, while the flowers are always louder, exuberant with colours. I still paint flowers, but I wanted more. If you could find beauty in a tulip you could find beauty in a ship, too. I wanted to show it.”
Abelman said ships reflect a sense of exploration but also of loneliness. “A ship is always alone amid the vast ocean, and even near the shore,” he said. “You could see lots of ships in Vancouver. They arrive and depart daily. I take pictures of them when I walk along the waterline, then I take different things from different photos for my paintings.”
He constantly works on improving his skills and widening his range of expression. “Professionally,” he said, “I’m an accountant, but I never tried so hard in accounting as I do in art; never enjoyed accounting so much either. In art, I’m driven. I want to succeed, to be better. I don’t care if I sell, but I want to paint better. I’ve been taking art classes for years, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I still need to learn.”
Like Scudamore, he paints every day but, unlike his partner in the show, his deep immersion in art doesn’t come easily. “Painting is hard for me,” he admitted. “You go into your own world for hours at a time. It’s a form of meditation. I have to focus, so no music for me when I paint. Sometimes, I listen to the news, but mostly I concentrate on my art.”
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].