Longtime enthusiast finds freedom in art

South Surrey’s Doris Anderson hosts first solo exhibition.

Several of Doris Anderson’s abstract acrylic paintings are on display at The Good Day Sunshine Cafe in South Surrey.

Doris Anderson’s new solo exhibition of original acrylics is called Freedom of the Heart – and it’s an apt title that speaks both to the unfettered expression of her abstract work, and also to its strong aesthetic and emotional underpinning.

The show, currently on display at The Good Day Sunshine Cafe in South Surrey, continues to May 31 – with a meet-the-artist party scheduled for May 24, from 1 to 4 p.m.

“It’s my first solo exhibition, although I have participated in online international shows,” Anderson said.

“It’s part of a process. It’s the next step to the next step. I’m painting for myself, but I have my art and I’d like to share it with people – starting in my home and community and growing from there.

“I feel very professional about it, very passionate about it and devoted to it.”

A resident of South Surrey for the past six years, Anderson said she had set herself a deadline of three years to develop her own mature painting style, creating more than 80 original acrylic paintings and 300 works in paper since 2012.

A 29-year veteran of airlines – as a flight attendant and latterly as a manager – she worked for CP Air, Canadian Airlines and Air Canada while she and husband Allan raised their two children, Thomas and Yvonne.

“I’ve worked, made a home, been a mother and a wife, but now it’s time to explore what it is I do, and what brings me joy,” she said.

“(Art) is something I put on hold for many years.”

She noted that she was painting and drawing at a very early age, with the encouragement of her parents, Johannes and Magdalena Ziegenfuss, who raised her in an environment in which classical music, art and culture were highly valued.

“I was always interested in art, and drawing and colour,” she said.

Her art education has included dedicated classes at Dunton High School in Montreal, followed by part-time studies at Concordia University from 1969 to 1972 – and, most recently, private tutorials with her mentor, Peninsula international artist Laara Williamsen, since 2012.

Anderson said she has also heeded the advice she read in a life-counselling book before beginning classes with Williamsen.

“It said to go back to the way you were between the ages of eight and 12 – try to remember what filled you with passion and made you happy.”

After an extensive exploration of various art media and learning to mix colours, Anderson said, she found herself most comfortable working with acrylics and palette knife, painting progressively larger pieces as her confidence level increased.

She decided to stay with abstraction as the purest expression of her aesthetic, she said.

“I could do realism and representational work, but I don’t want to. This works for me.”

She’s also allowing her technique and choice of media to develop in an unforced, organic way – oils and added media can wait for now, she said.

“I like acrylics because I can move them around – they’re pliable,” she said.

She likes wet painting, too, she added, and building up layers of paint which she’ll sometimes scrape away to reveal underlying colours and textures.

“When I’m painting, I’ll start with a meditation,” she said. “I’m in a relaxed state  – I’m feeling like I’m connecting with something that’s bigger than me. It’s a very strong spiritual connection; totally intuitive.”

“There’s no objective – I don’t have anything in mind per se. It evolves. I don’t look at the whole picture. When I feel I’m done, I’ll step back and look for the balance.”

Anderson credits Williamsen’s inspiration in finding this current expressive freedom in her work, but is also thankful that her career and frequent travels exposed her to some of the greatest masterpieces of classical art, which, she feels, have also informed her aesthetic.

“Before working with Laara, I thought everybody had to follow the prescribed plan, but we’ve gone directly to research on artists who have gone the abstract way, like Jackson Pollock.”

Not that she’s trying to be another Pollock, she said – just get closer to the possibilities of the abstract.

“I’ve also discovered that a landscape artist like (Group of Seven artist) Lawren Harris, at the end of his career, was moving toward it. The last pieces he did were abstract. And I said ‘oh my goodness, I understand where he was going at the end.’ He was very close to the source.

“I got very excited about it. I respect it – it’s authentic.”

The Good Day Sunshine Cafe is located at 100 – 2950 King George Blvd.

For further information on the show, call 778-241-6926.

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