SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2002

SpruceRoots Magazine - July 2003


by Berry Wijdeven

When artist Kiki van der Heiden left the Netherlands, she walked away from an industrialized country that had sacrificed much of its natural beauty in pursuit of economic prosperity. It is a country where a few years ago a grove of trees was cleared to make room for a sculpture composed of welded metal rods exposed to the elements which dripped rust onto the ground below. The title of the piece was Boom (Tree) and it created quite a stir, not for what it represented but for what had been sacrificed to create it. Along with the public outcry came the realization for many that somewhere along the way their link to the natural environment had been irretrievably lost.

From Holland Kiki made her way to the lush rainforests of Haida Gwaii, where she fell in love with its spectacular scenery. Initially overwhelmed by the richness of the greenery, it took her a while to rediscover her focus. In Holland, her art had been largely figurative, bold and bright with screaming colours. When you share a country half the size of Vancouver Island with more than sixteen million people, you have to scream to be heard.

On the Islands, she discovered she had to tone those colours down and adapt to nature’s palette. She also discovered that much of the natural beauty she was surrounded with was disappearing. After her experience in Holland, Kiki wasn’t eager to watch the dismantling of Haida Gwaii’s natural world and decided, through her art, to create a dialogue. It would be a dialogue with people and a dialogue with nature.

Kiki contacted Sandspit artist Kathy Pick and invited her to collaborate on a show to be placed in a natural environment from which the work would be inspired. The show, tentatively called Resonance of Nature will be viewable for one day only, September 14 at the Dover Trail in Sandspit. The show is mounted in conjunction with a planned Sierra Club hike of the trail.

Along the trail, hikers will encounter carefully placed pieces of art that interact with their immediate surroundings. The intent of the show is to celebrate nature, help people focus, draw them in and make them reflect, question and ponder.

While both artists agree that the show is about celebrating nature and making people more aware of their natural surroundings, they employ different approaches reflecting their personal relationship to the natural world and their comfort with this place.

At her studio in Queen Charlotte Kiki is working on a series of large canvasses that capture the colours, patterns and rhythms of nature. She is intrigued by the presence of trees and the history they represent. She views them as protectors and emblems of hope and her work for the Dover Trail will reflect the life cycle of trees.

Kiki’s goal is to make people more aware of nature. To help them see. She believes seeing is hard because our senses are overstimulated with sounds, noises, colours, movement and smells. But being in nature helps to soothe those senses and slowly opens them again. She views the show as an opportunity to remind people of the beauty of this place, to move beyond complacency, to rediscover how and where we fit in.
A relative newcomer to the Islands, fitting in is important to her as she tries not only to engage the local population but also nature itself.

“This is a big step for me,” says Kiki. “Not only getting inspiration out of nature, but putting art back there and seeing if the work is able to relate.”

In Sandspit, artist Kathy Pick approaches the project from a different angle. She has firm roots here and is clear about her place on the Islands. Her art has evolved over the years from depicting the natural environment to using that environment as an integral component of her art. Kathy is interested in creating tension between her work and the natural world. In this show, she will do this by presenting natural materials in unnatural shapes and unusual settings, such as the moss balls she is constructing which will provide a visual jolt in an unexpected location.

“To me the moss balls look out of place and that provides some tension,” she says. “It reminds me a bit of man’s discomfort generally in the natural environment. And if I can make somebody feel a little uncomfortable so that they think, that’s what it’s about.”

Kathy is intrigued by the transient nature of the one-day show and wouldn’t be disappointed to discover that a squirrel, raccoon or deer had eaten part of her pieces.

“Nature can be both beautiful and terrible. We’ve been taught so much to look for beauty that we forget that decay can be just as beautiful — part of the life cycle.”

To her, art is not a consumable commodity but something that sparks an interest, idea or perception that can leave a permanent trace. That trace can be as elusive as seeing something in a new way or rediscovering the natural environment that surrounds us.
Says Kathy: “There’s no right or wrong way of looking at this work. When you look at it, you bring your own thoughts. We are trying to draw attention to some of the lifecycles, perhaps provide a different perspective and look at nature in a little more depth.” •
Left : large canvas by Kiki van der Heiden. Middle : moss ball in stream by Kathy Pick

From left - right : Artist Kiki van der Heiden, writer Berry Wijdeven and artist Kathy Pick scout locations along the Dover Trail, Sandspit, Haida Gwaii.