“Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.”
Mary Oliver, Today
I think beauty is a gateway to mindfulness. It prompts us to open ourselves further to the potential in life and the value of living it sensually. Even the rough and tangle of nature, its wild spirit and raw appeal, can crack us open to revelation. In my work, I aim to represent the metaphorical potential in landscape painting. The way art can translate the many seasons of the soul - birth, light, joy, hope, darkness, decay, rebirth - into physical form. The true beauty in art is its opportunity for freedom. Which is the same way I feel about nature.
The spiritual core of the work is my memory of growing up on Bowen Island, which was still sparsely populated and remote back then. It was my wild place and a wondrous open space of learning. I spent long isolated days lost to my own curiousity. Moving through the shifting light and darkness of the forest or breaking through the trees to a vast vantage point, I came to appreciate how solace and inspiration weave through the natural world.
My mother taught me that the horizon line represents the calming of the psyche. Through it, people find a sense of peace - we gain both balance and hope. But the idea also recognises how intimately powerful our connection with nature remains no matter where we are. Human consciousness is marked by the earth’s rhythms and deeper truths. My work seeks to explore the potential and sublime beauty still resonant through these connections.
Cybele Ironside is a Canadian lyrical expressionist who uses suggestive forms and imagined landscapes to convey a metaphysical sense of awareness and manifest her own private emotions and metaphorical associations with each scene. Luminous and compelling, Ironside’s work lingers between representation and abstraction, appearing as evocations of the sublime power in being present and aware.
Born in Vancouver, Ironside was raised by creative parents committed to the sensibilities of 1970s open learning theories. Freedom of thought mattered most of all. Her mother, Anne, was a leading education pioneer and the family’s Bowen Island property became Ashoka House, a seminal educational retreat for alternative teaching. For Ironside as a kid, island life allowed her independent spirit to follow her own curiousities. In the light, water, trees and ground, Ironside came to appreciate an animistic spirit that enlivens all of nature. The feeling that the world was alive with potential.
Ironside developed her creative skills and artistics insights over many years of guided instruction at the famed Art Students League in New York City. Early on, she became interested in the expressive art and tumultuous personal stories of the New York School of abstract expressionists. Seeking to invest her work with personal emotions and private meaning, she recalled her west coast roots and the scenes that had made a lasting impression on her. But her focus shifted from recreating actual places toward abstracted reinterpretations and a looser, dreamlike sense of open space. Her work began to take on metaphorical associations - as manifestations of hope, joy, heartache and enlightenment.
In her current practice, Ironside makes masterful use of light and often employs rich, jewel-toned colours that resonate with the spiritual allure of stained glass, Her scenes radiate an inner ambiance, glowing and glowering from within. Working on canvas and panel, Ironside builds up the surface with a subtle sculptural effect through many layers of thin pigmented glazes achieving exceptional depth and luminosity. Her paintings provide a revelatory, immersive intimacy as much as they project drama and grandeur.
Cybele Ironside lives in Vancouver, Canada and works from her studio in the historic 1000 Parker Building in the city’s eastside arts district.