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Diane White
652 Head Street
Victoria BC, V9A 5T1






Below are a few selected reviews. The first here is from the March 2009 solo show at Gallery 1313 in Toronto.

Globe and Mail
Saturday March 21, 2009

Memorials to a landscape under assault


Diane White
at Gallery 1313
Until March 29, 1313a Queen Street West 416-536-6778

Diane White is getting understandably tired of hearing from art dealers that she would be a great painter if she'd just cut the edges off her paintings.

What's wrong with the edges? Well, that's where the messages lie, painted all around each picture, or across its bottom, like friezes of admonition or, sometimes, of out and out rebuke.

One lambently beautiful painting of huge pink trees in a green-gold forest, for example, carries an enigmatic title at the bottom - The Canary (Toad) Has Dropped, and, all around its other three sides, offers a decorative band of green, on which is painted a ribbon of rhythmically dispersed golden toads. A carefully lettered explanation runs up the painting's left side: "Golden Toad - First Species Extinct as a Result of Climate Change."

White explains it to me as we gaze upon the huge painting, propped up in the tiny kitchen of her west end Toronto home. "The Golden Toad is - or was - from Costa Rica," she says. The animal has not been seen since the late 1980s when, it is hypothesized, global warming dried up the toad's natural marsh environment. White's stunning painting memorializes the creature.

White, who has so much energy her outlines seem to flicker and vibrate, is a wife, mother, and, for a great part of each day, a caregiver to the elderly. She paints - somehow - in the time left over. Or she goes away on one of her frequent field trips ("basically, I don't want to be in the city"), the most recent trek taking her to Killarney Provincial Park, 60 kilometres south of Sudbury. Here, in the course of canoeing on George Lake, sketching (always with crayons), making photographs and taking notes, she generated the paintings that make up most of her new exhibition, Swan Song: Environmentally Challenged Landscapes, now at Toronto's Gallery 1313.

Except for the Golden Toad painting, Swan Song is about the mining industry. The Beginning of the End, shown here, is concerned with, as the painting's border-text makes clear, Deforestation - Loss of Natural Filtration System and Habitat. Aesthetically, the painting is glorious, with its red earth, its green-white embankments, and its unspoiled pastel forest in the background. But then there are those two felled trees, rudely slung horizontally through the painting, dark blood-red and threatening as a guillotine. "I just want to paint the full picture," White tells me. "The landscape is beautiful, but the lakes are dead and the trees are dying." Which makes for landscapes that are pretty hard for people to hang over their sofa to match their drapes.

At the centre of Swan Song is White's trilogy of paintings - each six feet wide and seven feet, seven inches high: The Big Smoke - Air, Earth Shattering - Earth, and Mistaken Identity - Water. Each is lovely, disturbing and horrifying, in equal measure. Each of the paintings embodies what White calls "a collision of different objectives."

And each of the paintings makes manifest those colliding objectives and contradictory programs in the best way White knows - by painting exquisitely and urgently. The Big Smoke, for example, is a rampant field of turbulent brick reds and creams, bounding and writhing over an icy, reflected lakescape, glorious to behold - until you also behold the towering, raw-red smokestack thrust up through the picture's left side and belching purple smoke.

Earth Shattering is even more delicately pleasing - initially anyhow. A study in blue-grey, with the George Lake providing a mirror-like symmetry of the shoreline and its reflection, the uncanny stillness of the painting is gently interrupted by the appearance, at its upper left, of a huge section of mining equipment. This soft blue tangle of machinery gently drifts down into the waiting landscape as if it were descending from the clouds. The ironies folded into this magnificent painting are clearly angry and strident, and yet the entire painting proceeds through a kind of painted hush - as if silence made a louder noise than fury.

Below are a couple of articles from the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail about the Mar 2008 : "Paintings from the Edge - Of Extinction"; Solo Show at Gallery 1313, Toronto which featured the paintings from the Extinct series.

The Globe and Mail
March 29, 2008

Aesthetic pleasure, and an urgent message

Gary Michael Dault

Diane White at Gallery 1313
1313A Queen St. W., Toronto; 416-536-6778

Shortly before going to see Diane White's exhibition, Paintings from the Edge of Extinction, at Toronto's Gallery 1313, I opened my computer only to have CNN inform me that a shelf of ice "the size of Connecticut" had broken off Antarctica - a companion chunk to other recently detached mega-floes "the size of Manhattan" and "the size of Rhode Island." .

I mention this because it was an apt if gloomy prelude to viewing the paintings from White's Extinct Series that make up this beautiful and disturbing exhibition. For White's 2006 exhibition at Gallery 1313, the Toronto-based artist and environmental activist showed paintings specifically about the threatened Arctic. Her current exhibition, an extension of the earlier one, is even more all-encompassing in its concerns. For here, having located her paintings in Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park, White has set about, as she puts it in her statement of purpose, incorporating "prehistory into the present" and also showing the potential impact of the present on the future.

It's a large undertaking, and White's procedure is disarming in that her paintings appear at first to offer the kind of open-handed innocence you might expect to find in any well-made, picturesque landscape.

These badlands paintings are chromatically ravishing: Creamy, golden-pinkish landforms languish under brilliantly washed, hard blue skies. Everywhere, there is lightness and a residual warmth that White has somehow managed to transfer from sun-baked rock to lush pigment.

But then you begin to "read" the paintings - and all escapist reverie ends. In what way are they readable? In the least subtle way possible: The paintings have captions, language-imbued borders and stencilled texts that carry White's urgent message. In a magnificent painting like The Canary Toad Has Dropped Back to the Forest (sinewy, Matisse-pink trees in a blue wilderness), the title runs across the painting's bottom like a subtitle in a foreign film.

In addition, there is a stencilled text running up one side that adds some important information: "Golden Toad - First Species Extinct as a Result of Climate Change." The painting's power comes from its doubleness: from the big joyful breath of aesthetic pleasure the painting provides so bountifully and, at the same time, the self-cancellation generated by the modifying text.

Some of these exquisite and urgent paintings have recourse to something close to a badlands surrealism: In Extinct III (reproduced here), the sunny, metal-hard sky is full of pale blue teeth (like feral clouds), while at the bottom of the painting, the artist's X-ray vision has chosen to reveal the primeval bones that now stand as a symbol for the fate that awaits us all in our rush to what White sees as our "self-imposed annihilation."

The Toronto Star
Mar 29, 2008

At the galleries

Peter Goddard

For Diane White, Earth Hour has been ticking away for some time – nearly since the beginning of time, in fact.

The title of her show, "Paintings from the Edge – Of Extinction" (Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St. W.,) summarizes the veteran Toronto artist's rage at the "scope and rapidity of destruction" on the planet.

The paintings – ochre-brushed glaciated Alberta foothills so desiccated looking you can practically taste ancient dust – resulted from the artist's visit to Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park with its "remote, harsh, desolate, austere and extraordinary" appearance, as she says. Sharply articulated crevices give the land's end the look of claws scratching at the substratum.

These are landscapes with attitude, politically energized, cautionary posters with the painter's marginalia warning that what you're seeing is "the cost of procrastination" or "wholesale destruction." "Make the connection," shouts text stretched along a band that frames the landscape within a landscape.

The pursuit of "vanishing landscapes" has taken her from Baffin Island to Vancouver Island. But you sense the dinosaur park tweaked a more exposed nerve with "these vast, prehistoric dinosaur graveyards," she writes in her artist's statement. "It's not difficult to see the connection between the unexplained demise of the dinosaur and the future of the planet.

"I am a landscape painter but in good conscience, I cannot, while painting the incredible landscapes I have observed across Canada, ignore the political consequences of our actions and how our lifestyles have contributed to the alarming environmental destruction evident."

Self Portrait

2005, acrylic/canvas 6'w x 6'h


© Diane White, 2010