Robert Achtemichuk

What I see becomes a sort of visual illumination, like a match struck unexpectedly in the dark, a gift, lighting my path into wonder -Virginia Woolf

In Homer Watson’s Foot Steps Exhibition

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Opening Sunday, June 21 from 2 to 4 pm
at the Homer Watson House & Gallery
1754 Old Mill Road, Kitchener 519.748.43.77

March 12 2015 200pmMarch 12, 2015 2:00pm wc/washi

In Homer Watson’s Foot Steps

This project is an attempt to follow in Homer Watson’s steps, and locate the sites from which he made his many paintings of landscapes around Doon. In my research I collected images of successive seasons in the woods near the house in which Homer Watson was born, just down the road from the Homer Watson House & Gallery; the marsh area where the Speed River and the Grand River meet; and down the Grand River into Cambridge and Paris. Homer Watson could walk from field to field across private property looking for painting subjects. He painted woods, trails, farm buildings, cows, streams and rivers.

I found images like his – riverside views, trails in the woods, individual trees, stands of trees. The paintings I made were done on the spot, following Watson’s method of “plein air” painting, a method that he himself borrowed from the painters he admired, precursors of the Impressionist movement such as Constable, Corot, and the painters of the Barbizon School (to whom he paid such affectionate homage in the ceiling frieze of his studio). Yet unlike them I used watercolour and gouache in my explorations, looking to record the fleeting light, clouds and movement in the spontaneous gestures of a fluid and quick drying medium.

Following in Homer Watson’s steps encouraged my love of old trees and showed me their cramped and dwindling environment. Gone are the huge old-growth trees of his time. What we now have, especially in Cressman Woods, are trees that were seedlings in Homer Watson’s lifetime. New private property signs multiply with the urban sprawl – no trespassing – emphatic frontiers limiting public access to woods, trail and river. I documented what I found, but I did not include new buildings or commercial developments.

Homer Watson saw the beginning of the city’s assault on the countryside and the natural environment, and the danger urban encroachment posed to the groves of old trees. His concern for his local landscape went beyond painting: it took him 25 years of work and lobbying to garner support from municipal councillors and business people to establishing Cressman Woods as a publicly accessible nature reserve, now part of Homer Watson Park.

Like Homer Watson, I want my paintings to raise our awareness that we all need these natural wooded areas, these landscapes and these points of view to be preserved for our collective health and spiritual wellbeing.

Robert Achtemichuk
Spring, 2015

I appreciate the support of the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund and and the Ontario Arts Council.
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Author: Robert Achtemichuk

Born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan with a fine arts degree from the University of Manitoba and further studies in France and Mexico. Was the Executive Director of Open Studio, the Waterloo Regional Arts Council and the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery. Recently received artist grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Waterloo Regional Arts Fund to develop and exhibit new paintings that were shown extensively. Received the Award of Excellence from the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in 2012 and in 2015 received the Machteld Faas Xander Visual Arts Award, KW Arts Awards. Appreciate support from Ontario Arts Council in 2018-2019.

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