Field of Vision | David Alexander on Place and Time
On reflection —
In Alexander’s practice, the water reflection functions as both subject matter and intermediary: one through which the artist enacts a visual intervention with the landscape to deconstructs the familiar and redirect the gaze towards features which might escape notice at first glance.
Working with source imagery that is distinctly transient in nature, Alexander describes the process of waiting patiently to witness instances in which environmental conditions — atmospheric and reflected light on the water surface, set in motion by current and wind — align to create singular moments of elemental epiphany.
On Painting —
As a masterful colourist, David Alexander’s expansive palette is often influenced by the locality and season and informed by his emotional response to place, be they the majestic, wide-open prairie skies, the fluid depths of Newfoundland’s wetlands, the tense verticality of B.C.’s old-growth forests, or the rambling mountain ranges of the Rockies.
According to the artist, winter scenes often appear black and white due to the stark and diffuse natural light. From this monochromatic scheme emerges a sketch-like gestural immediacy, one rooted in Alexander's affinity for and background in the drawing medium.
On seeing —
After repeated visits to a place, Alexander will oftentimes experience it with renewed sensory potency and heightened saturation, a familiarity which begets intensity. These illusory optics become accessible to the audience through the act of viewing Alexander's paintings. From jewel-like studies to canvasses that span one's field of vision; the dynamic texture, monumental scale and infinite variation of the Canadian landscape are rendered as richly layered compositions which resonate with expressive force.
Punctuated with high-key pops of colour, Alexander’s skillful mark-making highlights the less-trodden look and intact wildness of his preferred scenery, a startling foil to the picturesque images and pristine vistas that dominate popular conceptions of the Canadian landscape.
On place —
Having lived in Vancouver and spent time in Steveston growing up, David Alexander became well acquainted with the coastal landscape early in life and started drawing at the age of 17 while working on a tugboat, where he adopted a habit of sketching his surroundings during long and slow sailings.
Alexander’s further connections to artistic life and the landscape painting tradition can be traced through his personal history to his grandmother, who was a painter in coastal France in the late 1890’s when the Impressionists lived and worked there. His mother, who lived in Victoria at a young age, would often visit Emily Carr for Sunday tea.
Alexander would continue his lifelong immersion in the creative sphere with his attendance at the Emma Lake Artists' Workshops, and his involvement in the Saskatoon artists’ community following his move there in 1980. For 23 years Alexander was a guest artist-in-residence at the Morris Graves Foundation in California among many other places, he has also traveled extensively for various projects and guest lecturing engagements. David Alexander was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2018.