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Artist, Brent Laycock.
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"Day’s Last Light"
Brent Laycock, "Day’s Last Light," acrylic on canvas, 30" X 60".
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Brent Laycock, "Presto," watercolour 30" x 22".
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Brent Laycock, "Tulip," acrylic 24" x 24".
Prairie painter Brent Laycock's landscapes play with perception.
BY Dina O'Meara
“I always see a subject more as a launching pad for something else,” artist Brent Laycock says from his home in southwest Calgary. “Sometimes something that seems at first glance to be dull and boring is complex and interesting. What I want to do is take landscape themes and abstract them a little further.”
It’s an unusual insight into the work of an unassuming artist, one who used to be ribbed regularly by other artists for showing up at openings in a suit and tie when everyone else was in jeans. Now in his early 60s, with more than a dozen grandchildren, Laycock’s landscapes keep expanding in scope, while maintaining the baseline of prairie beauty they’ve always had.
Laycock has established himself in the Canadian and international arts community for his dynamic and multi-hued explorations of southern Alberta landscapes and effervescent floral portraits. His acrylics and watercolours are lyrically expressed, now edging more and more toward the abstract.
One of his pure abstract creation is a brilliant explosion of colour depicting the rapid musical tempo Presto. It was recently chosen as part of the Alberta Society of Artists show Painted With Music, a juried exhibition running September through December at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, exploring visual imagery in the lyrics of singer songwriter Joni Mitchell. The show was conceived to complement the world premier last September of the Alberta Ballet work based on Mitchell’s music, The Fiddle and the Drum.
Music has always been a strong influence in Laycock’s life. Growing up on a farm in southwestern Alberta, there was always music at home, and he played percussion at school. He sees the relationships between musical concepts, where each sound interacts with another to create meaning, being similar to the way the artist’s ideas interact with his art. The abstract relationship between melody and movement translate onto the canvas through colour, rhythm and movement.
“Sometimes when I’m putting together a painting, I look at it as a symphonic composition, layering rhythms and tempos,” he says. “A lot of landscape painting is representational, and there is a lot of problem solving. To be able to look at it in a different way, as an abstract, often will solve it.”
“His art is vibrant and energetic,” says Colette Hubner, director at Wallace Galleries in Calgary, where Laycock has been represented for 26 years. “He’s not afraid of colour, and people are drawn to his work because of the colour and vibrancy.” Hubner first met Laycock at a block party in their neighbourhood, and characterizes him as quiet and laid-back, a man whose energy comes through in his art.
Born in Lethbridge in 1947, Laycock completed a Masters in Fine Arts at Brigham Young University and returned to Alberta with the hope of becoming an academic. The university gig didn’t pan out and the young husband and father soon found work as a graphic artist with the Calgary Board of Education, where he learned to photograph and document art.
Laycock worked at Freeman/Yipp Advertising while continuing to paint in his studio. By 1981, he had become a full-time artist, working out of a converted pool house where his kids did their homework and played floor hockey. Since then, his work has been exhibited across North America and presented to both Queen Elizabeth, and to Queen Margrethe of Denmark.
Edith Becker, owner of Gust Gallery in Waterton, Alberta, where Laycock and his wife Kathy have a cabin, describes his work as bold, and almost impressionistic. Becker also collects Laycock’s art for herself, particularly his watercolours, which she describes as having “great colour and movement.”
For the artist, watercolours have a life of their own once they’re on the canvas. “You can make accidents happen,” he says. “The paint will flow around, then you have the problem of how to tame and adjust it to make it work. Sometimes you just throw a bomb into it and see where it happens to go.”
He’s been influenced by modern Canadian landscape artists like the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and David Milne. “Bold painting, every brush stroke mattered, not fussy,” he says.
Laycock is actively involved in local and national arts organizations, including membership of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. Joining the Alberta Society of Artists was important. When he joined, several established artists, such as Ted Godwin, one of the original Regina Five group of painters, took an interest in the relative newcomer and supported him, attending his shows and talking about his work to colleagues and dealers.
Though he’s been experimenting with unusual forms, like the abstract evolution of Presto, he’s eager to hold on to the traditional techniques that he began with. “As we get into an increasingly digital age, things that are hand-made have new importance,” Laycock notes. “There is a vitality that is made when art is controlled by the human hand. It’s really ultimately about the emotional feeling.”
Find Brent Laycock’s paintings at Wallace Galleries, Calgary; West End Gallery, Edmonton and Victoria; Assiniboia Gallery, Regina; Gust Gallery, Waterton, AB; The Gallery at Jasper Park Lodge, Chateau Whistler and Banff Springs; Art and Soul Gallery, High River, AB.