A brush with nature Layla Haroon (Contributor) 21 November 2007
Douglas Grenville whose paintings are currently on
display at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi explains his technique of
infusing feelings to his artworks
GROWN up isolated in the dense woods of northern Ontario and having spent his
later years as a botanist, Douglas Grenville’s memory is brimful with images of
It is this intense love for nature
that motivates his paintings.
“My art seeks out nature,” says
Douglas Grenville whose exhibition is on at the Cultural Foundation.
“It is my style of conserving it
perpetually. The lines, shapes and colours are those that reside within me from
an intimate relationship with nature, and many hours of microscopic examination.
I try to sense the intense delicate interdependence of life. This discovery
invigorates my motivation.”
Douglas’s birth in Canada, and his
subsequent life (with a Masters degree in Botany and a bachelors degree in
Science) in Australia, Netherlands, and Switzerland for 16 years have nurtured
the painter in him. Especially, those memorable flashes that ripened in the
midst of hundreds of lakes within the impenetrable Boreal forests.
“I would sit still for hours in the
Boreal, fascinated by the wildlife that would slowly reveal itself, coming out
from its hiding places, sharing its secrets with me; the rays of light that
penetrated in dark waters when pickerel glided beneath, when earth's odours rose
from floating spruce bogs,” recalls Douglas. “Today I try to recapture these
moments; it was my personal theatre. It will always be part of
Needless to say, his reminiscences developed various ways of spreading
paint and fuelled a wild technique. They have, in part, a life of their own that
generate both mystery and depth. Grenville defines his style as abstract, which
is also impressionistic.Perhaps,
the artist insists, it needs a new name.
The mediums, says Douglas, always
restricts and limits possibilities for the artist. “The artist must master the
medium to overcome these limits and realise his work.I work constantly with my mediums to
turn the two dimensions of the canvas into a matrix that expresses what I want,”
Nevertheless, in this approach, he
is never without ideas. A painting must tell a story, he stresses, revealing
this tactic further. It should be like a poem, that must strike an emotional
chord when first read, and then intensify that same feeling when explored.
“I paint first with an idea of
something that attracts me. For example, light penetrating a forest, the ripples
wind makes on sand and the shadows they cast. Then, I search for the feelings I
had when I walked through such a landscape. When I get the two, I mix the idea
and feelings and filter it through my memory,” says Douglas. His next interest
is in Arabian art, which is ancient yet modern in many
have such beauty and force and I want to know more about how artists express
their relationship with deserts,” he explains the attraction. “I did not expect
my art to lead me to know people better. This is one of riches of being an