Abstract Landscapes: Paintings by Gina Leon
When: Tuesday October 16th 530pm – 730pm
Where: 128 West Hastings (Vancouver)
I first met Gina Leon almost 25 years ago; she had just moved in down the street from my family and our parents became friends. Gina is from Johannesburg, South Africa and her family moved to Vancouver amidst the political turmoil taking place in their country. We were about the same age when she moved here and we instantly became friends. Fast forward 25 years and I am not surprised at the amazing art Gina produces. She has always had a poet’s soul, and when she found a way to share both her stories and the stories that surround her, I could tell she found her calling. Gina and I reconnected over our passion for storytelling – mine through the written word, and hers through paint and character portrayal.
Like many artists, there is rarely a single medium that expresses everything. For Gina, acting is her main portal into the artistic realm – her passion for storytelling comes alive on stage. Yet painting offers an entirely new way of expressing her emotions. In her most recent work, titled Abstract Landscapes, Gina explores the notion of home and the liminal space she has often found herself in. In between: it is a theme many can relate to, which is why her work is so powerful and captivating. When I saw Gina’s work I wanted to help her find a way to share it, so I brought her to my collaborative coworking space The HiVE and she connected immediately with the space.
Megan: How does it feel to have your art on display at the HiVE?
Gina: The first time I exhibited my work in New York I said to someone it felt like I was hanging my underwear up on a wall. It was so exposing – and this has a similar feeling, although more intense in some ways. These paintings have been in my apartment for years – every nook and cranny has been stuffed full with my canvases. When I packed up the car and saw how empty my apartment looked, it was a very confronting experience, almost like moving. Later that day, when we were in setting up at The HiVE, there were lots of people working and I had the sense that most people were very excited about seeing their space change. Now that my work is up, I am both terrified and excited – that is, after all, my underwear up there!
Megan: What message would you like people to walk away with after seeing your work?
Gina: My primary message is that the image has the power to stir something personal in all of us. I paint emotional landscape where I am communicating something through my painting. My hope is the reception of the painting is an emotional one. I feel like colour and abstraction has the capacity to move people more easily. We do so much to avoid feeling – we are often taught how to operate in a way that is safe and socially acceptable. I want to transport people into new experiences or connect them with old memories. The stories will be specific to the person.
Megan: Now that you have more room in your apartment, what do you plan on painting next?
Gina: I am looking forward to my trip back to New York next month. A lot of my interest in facades and weathered surfaces started in New York and was re-awoken when I moved back to Vancouver. I want to paint a series inspired by the New York landscape. I am not ready to make a departure from abstract painting. I have the opportunity to explore other styles when I am teaching at my 4Cats studio, and while I often include more literal pieces in my collection, I see everything as growing out of an abstract concept. I like to create chapters in my work that are bookmarked by realistic looking paintings so that people can see where the abstract resolved itself to.
Gina Leon’s art show debuts on Tuesday, October 16th 530 – 730pm at the HiVE Vancouver (128 West Hastings Street). I hope you can all join us in celebrating the journey of searching and finding home.