Banff exhibition explores literal and metaphoric turbulence

Everyone has experienced the raw power of a storm. Banff’s Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is offering a way of channelling some of that energy without getting wet or windswept.

Fury: Portraits of a Turbulent World is a series of nine large-scale paintings by Stephen Hutchings that depict the violence and grandeur of storms. Working from photographs of actual storms Hutching’s work is a combination of charcoal drawings glazed over with colours to make them paintings proper.

“This whole thing started as an investigation of a simple co-relationship between human mood or emotion on the one hand and weather on the other” says Hutchings who exhibited eight of the paintings at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa in 2012.

Inspired by the work of John Constable Hutchings began investigating the emotive aspect of clouds and sky and soon hit on the idea of storms as a metaphor for the unexpected catastrophes that lurk in contemporary life: things like natural disasters terrorist attacks car crashes bankruptcies and the like. “I see these works as being a metaphor for that a description for some of the anxiety of living in contemporary life.”

All the same the paintings have an aesthetic beauty that offsets the turbulence of their subjects. “The catharsis for this anxiety this horror this terribleness is the fact that [the paintings] are also on another level beautiful and maybe awe-inspiring” says Hutchings.

As a group the paintings create an experience of their own: most are 2.4 metres by 2.4 metres square (eight feet by eight feet) towering above the viewers. “The paintings hang together as an installation. There’s a sense of being surrounded that I’m very keen on” says Hutchings. “The viewer will be in the middle — in the eye of the storm if you like — so there really is a sense of being in an installation.”

Hutchings will be in attendance at the gallery for an artist talk is on Thursday April 10 at 7 p.m.