Darlene Cole captures a hazy, haunting world of poetry and wonder. The artist’s distinct oil painting techniques lend a watercolour effect to her subjects without compromising rich colour values and velvety textures. Cole’s canvases—dreamy expanses inhabited by spirited figures—are studies of time and memory. These figures, both human and animal, play a pivotal role, evoking emotional responses in the viewer as Cole navigates between layers of reference and meaning. At once playful and melancholic, Cole’s work draws on themes characteristic of her established painting career: the inherent mystery of old architectural interiors, the power of painterly colour and texture to spark memory, and the exploration of childhood innocence and its loss. Canvases offer delicate detail work that gives form to softly blended screens of colour, mapping the seamless and often unconscious journey from visual prompt to archetypal meaning: an elk’s elegant antlers emerge against a mossy plane; a child’s red dress bursts through the haze of a dreamy playground; a rowboat sails off toward a dusky horizon. Other recurring tropes in Cole’s work—velvet curtains, picture frames, and armoires—are thresholds that beckon us to an exciting place, far beyond the frame.
Cole's work is extensively collected across Canada and internationally. Notable public collections include: The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Tom Thomson Art Gallery, the K.F. Preueter Collection of Canadian Art, Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC, OCAD University, Fairmont Hotels (Toronto, Montreal, Banff), and Manulife Financial.