Joni Laberge Gallery Show
Following Paint documents my year of letting go and exploring watercolours. Using beautiful Arches paper and Daniel Smith paints, known for unpredictable and fascinating granulation, I entered into a world beyond myself. Watercolour fascinates me because it is literally fluid. It is a collaboration between the artist, physics and the unknown. Water carries pigment as it pools, seeps, soaks and dries. Cotton fibres hold and wick waterborne pigments. Mineral
pigments blend and clash, resist and fuse, collide and marry into rust, or dirt, or an eerie glow. Colour mixing is alchemy. Watercolour is subject to forces beyond the artist. These paintings are about those forces and my willingness to yield to and follow them. At times I felt my grandmother, who resides both in the other world and very much in my studio.
I painted every day, coming to the page to listen, and to follow. The colours got weirder. The storm clouds look haunted and bruised, because I didn’t mix a normal purple from warm blue and cool red. The storm clouds are a fraught suspension of Indian Red in Cerulean Blue. One day I grabbed my hair dryer and blew paint across the page. I watched the coloured beads of water stretch out and split into branches, twigs and tendrils. Water, blasting air and minerals ignited new motifs and ideas. I followed, not even trying to control it. I had no choice but to let go of my ego and follow the paint. When something ugly happened, it required me to figure out what to do next. Watercolour taught me that the “mistake” is the best part of the painting.
Miles Davis said, “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”
There are no wrong notes, there are no wrong colours and there are no wrong shapes. If you trust, and you follow; then you learn, and you grow. That’s what I got from a year of Following Paint.
Born in Fernie BC to a coal mining family, and raised in Elkford, Hosmer and Jaffray, emerging mixed-media artist Joni Laberge has deep connections to the Elk Valley region and the natural world of mountains, creeks and lakes. In her early explorations, she participated in several group shows at the Fernie Arts Station, including 3D installations for Bubblegum and the CD Art Project. Mentored in weaving by her Finnish grandmother, she joined the Fernie
Spinners and Weavers Guild and showed her rag rugs and birch bark baskets in a group show. Educated in Mixed Media and Writing at Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, Joni focussed her energies on writing and communication throughout much of her career. She did writing residencies and workshops at Banff Centre, Sage Hill, St. Eugene and Fernie. In 2020 she paused a gruelling book project to give her brain a rest. A child rights advocate, she works with teens in Sparwood. It was in this role that she reignited her interest in visual art
—while preparing for a youth art program in 2020, she dug out her old paints and her dormant drawing, design and colour theory skills came back to life. Finding stillness, healing and delight in visual work, Joni has painted nearly every day since. She regularly takes commissions, and her work was selected for the Fernie Arts Station Transform exhibit in the summer of 2020.
Her primary subjects are the natural world and abstractions of natural motifs. Fascinated by pigments, she prefers Daniel Smith paints and follows the paint wherever it leads.
Visit the Arts Station website for more details on this event.