Artist Linda Hankin, whose work is currently on display at the Pumphouse Gallery in Niagara-on-the Lake, peeked mischievously over her bright red rimmed glasses and informed me that her early paintings can’t be shown because of today’s volatile and politically sensitive situation. We were having tea together and discussing her lengthy and fulfilling career and her current show at the NOTL gallery. Her large collection of colourful and expressive paintings, created during a broad range of historic and social influences, dazzles the eye. She calls it ‘Contemporary Realism.’
Hankin was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1948, and has lived in Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Her career has taken her throughout North America and Europe as she absorbed images and influences that are visualized in her work.
We chatted about her artistic philosophy and painting techniques. Like the famous Franco-Russian artist, Marc Chagall, her paintings simmer with mystery and potential. Tiny treasures, acquired in little shops around the world and hidden portraits of humans and animal forms magically weave stories and enchantment on the painted surfaces. Hankin says that artists are clairvoyant and that her approach to creativity is both empirical and accidental.
She lives a solitary, simple existence on a large farm with her beloved dog and cats, surrounded by nature and her artwork. She meditates and the absorbed inner influences of the country, her collections and experiences, percolate through her subconscious and flow into her work. The Pumphouse show features vivid, dramatic paintings that draw the viewer in closer to examine the fantastical images that prance and float across the canvas. I asked Hankin about her display of small scale animal sculptures and landscapes painted on miniature screens and boxes.
“They are paintings that have left the canvas and are going three dimensional,” she replied. These whimsical papier-mache cats and mixed media pieces create an interesting counterpoint to the paintings.
After our meeting, I stood in the middle of the Pumphouse Gallery show and turned slowly about to absorb the dazzling florals, dreamscapes, landscapes, still life paintings and fanciful creatures that almost seem to vibrate off the walls. Brilliant red poppies and roses, luminous purple irises, glowing yellow daffodils, swirling blue clouds and floating landscapes filled with dreamy figures and colourful horses surrounded me. In one large work, a circus performer lunges a polka dot horse through a carnival of mysterious, yet somehow familiar objects. Standing amidst this energy and excitement in the gallery, I remembered a childhood sensation of riding a prancing pony on a merry-go-round while the world swirled by. That’s the feeling that Linda Hankin’s paintings and sculpture create. Only Linda can see her controversial early works, but everyone can enjoy the pieces currently on display.
It’s worth taking a trip to the Pumphouse Gallery in NOTL to join Linda Hankin on an exotic journey through a life filled with imagination, passion and talent. The Pumphouse exhibit is on display until November 27, 2017.
Sharon Frayne is a writer and artist. She is a member of the Canadian Author's Association, the Niagara Writer's Circle and the Pumphouse Art Gallery. She looks for the universal experience and the mystery in everyday things.