At once challenging and comfortable, and familiar yet unexpected, the work of 32 year old Calgary born artist Erik Olson has everyone talking. It’s hard not to like how he creates a painting. Olson’s method offers an imaginative, mental playground: one that can be catalyzed by a memory, a gesture, a colour, a place or a combination of all of the above. His work is varied in its themes: vibrant, bold and perceptive in a way that reveals that he paints the way he lives — as an explorer. He appears to be perpetually on the move; from the time he was born he has never stayed in any one city for more than a couple of years. This year is no different and sees the young painter embarking on a new adventure as the guest student of celebrated painter Peter Doig at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Olson comes at painting from a kaleidoscope of directions and influences, yet manages to maintain a clear voice. Each body of work is an example of Olson bounding after his curiosity; from his travels in India, to dance, to outer space, nature and portraiture. His work has been shown at the renowned National Portrait Gallery in England and more locally at MOCA Calgary and the Glenbow Museum. He has also taken part in many solo, group and private exhibitions all over Canada, the United States and England.

Though varied in themes, all of Olson’s paintings share autobiographical elements that have been filtered through his own unique prism of interpretation. Space, his solo exhibition at the Skew Gallery, originated in his experience of living in a small shack out in Fernie. It began with him looking up and being dazzled by the clear BC night sky. The series, however, isn’t based on that physical image alone or even interested in presenting us with a photo-realistic depiction of space. Instead he takes us on a colourful, textured and highly expressionistic portrayal of his child-like enchantment and wonder at space and the universe. “I fucking love space” is scrawled on one of the painting and perfectly encapsulates his interpretation of our solar system through his own exuberant lens. Two years later, The Mountains came out of his time in the Rockies and is his exploration of how we physically experience nature and how we have changed and re-shaped it. Though fragmented geometric shapes and snippets of the Western Canadian landscape, the series attempts to make coherent aesthetic sense of the world around us.

Olson’s work also has an admirable sense of economy and is a testament to his pursuit of a not merely close, but an essential connection to the core elements of his subject matter. There is nothing superfluous about his pieces. At first glance they may appear full — full of colour, texture and meaning — but take a moment and one will quickly realise that his paintings are very deliberately composed and incredibly harmonious constructs. What is intriguing about his work is that while they are incredibly abstract and fragmented they have an immediately recognizable sense of subject. Olson explains this as an exercise in what Hans Hoffman said nearly eight decades ago: “tak[ing] away the unnecessary, in order to let the necessary speak”.

Visit his website bellow to learn more about this unique Canadian talent:

http://erikolson.ca/

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