"Heavenly Bodies: Falling Stars 2"
Gathie Falk, "Heavenly Bodies: Falling Stars 2," 2005, acrylic on canvas, 44" x 57".
GATHIE FALK, Heavenly Bodies
Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
Oct. 20 - Nov.19, 2005
By Ann Rosenberg
Heavenly Bodies brings forth Gathie Falk's long-standing fascination with the clouds above and the sun, moon and stars beyond.
A connection with Night Skies, her extensive 1979/80 series, comes immediately to mind, but the 1999 to 2005Heavenly Bodies works are, on the whole, not so closely based on the appearance of reality. In this show, only three images directly depend on skies seen — Sunsets # 1 and # 2 on the Flight from Rimouski which accurately set down two views from the plane's window, and Vancouver Sunset, a rosy, colour field painting that captures the essence of a late evening sky witnessed in the artist's neighbourhood.
For the last 25 years, Falk's inspired renditions of the clouds overhead have influenced my experience of them when I walk in the city at night. It is likely that her images of the infinite billowing atmosphere visible through a commercial jet's portholes will also, in future, influence my way of perceiving that special world at 35,000 feet up.
The majority of the pieces in Heavenly Bodies, however, relate to art completed more recently than the Night Skies series and virtually all are based more fully on Falk's personal vision about bodies in the stratosphere and ways to depict them than those cited above. Although the artist is well versed in astronomy and familiar with NASA photography, she wants her own awe in the bodies of the universe to be central to these works. Like embracing a difficult spiritual concept, it takes a leap of faith to follow her vision into the infinite beyond where stars have been arranged into new patterns and constellations and where stars shoot down in patterns as perfect as those designed by a choreographer. Beautiful backdrops (cerulean blue and dark turquoise) cushion the celestial icons and the hard-edge shapes of five pointed stars are often smudged as though they are softened by the haze of a Vancouver rain. Knowing that in the Milky Way there is blackness forever and that millions of light miles separates each sun (or star) from the next, makes Falk's imagination-based representations of what we, as humans, can never see from our minuscule perches on earth quite moving.
The moon is also a special subject in Heavenly Bodies. Four paintings present the edge of the moon or the entire orb wrapped by the halos that appear to envelop it on a misty night. In real life, of course, the moon is thousands of miles away from earth's atmosphere, but the artist creates a different truth for the heavenly body closest to us. Four other more conceptually difficult moon images are also part of this exhibit. In each, a black, somewhat ominous 'slice' of the back side of the silver orb is shown to be illuminated by a scimitar-shaped strip of light at its outermost right edge. These works relate back to the four paintings in the Moon Loosely Detached series Falk made in 1994, only in these the moon phase does not break away from its body of origin.
My favourite works are the simplest ones — the constellations and shooting stars. But all the pieces are selling well perhaps because there are many different interpretations of the Heavenly Bodies concept in the show for the viewer to consider. This exhibit is very unlike Falk's recent exhibitions which were often installations combining paintings and sculpture arranged precisely to fit within the ground floor of the Equinox Gallery's pristine space.