Cultural Centre’s latest exhibition showcases beauty of Wakamow Valley

The Moose Jaw Culture Center is hosting Russell Mang’s Drawing on the Valley exhibit through March 25. The exhibition features 20 scenes he painted between 2019 and 2022, with the artist drawing five on location and the rest in his studio.

Of the drawings created by artist Russell Mang for a new exhibition, perhaps the most striking is a scene from the Wakamov Valley featuring a bright red dogwood plant against a white winter background.

The Moose Jaw Culture Center is hosting Mang’s Drawing on the Valley exhibit from now through March 25. The exhibition features 20 scenes he painted between 2019 and 2022, with the artist drawing five on location – including ‘Dogwood and Ice Fog’. – and the rest in his studio.

This show marks 10 years since his last exhibition in February-March 2013.

The title of the exhibition plays with two themes: nature – especially the Wakamov Valley – as a source of inspiration and the process of drawing as an art form in its own right.

After graduating from university in 1982, Mang focused on painting landscapes “plein air” — on location — with watercolors, which he continued for decades, he told the Express. However, his approach has evolved into trying to develop a “vocabulary” to describe what he feels inside.

He considers the contemplative life his vocation while expressing the practice of paying attention to “the present” – God or the universe – through his art.

Mang and his wife moved to Moose Jaw in September 2007, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he “discovered” the Wakamov Valley, which began to inspire his work.

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“I’ve grown really fond of it and try to come down as often as possible,” Mang said.

From 2009 to 2015, Mang focused most of his work on the surrounding prairies because they appealed to him the most. Later, however, he was drawn to the valley’s interiors, including its hiking trails and — more specifically — Paashkwow Park.

Over the past decade, his inner vocabulary has shifted from the vastness of the prairie to an “inner” space found in the bushes and trails.

Mang often draws or paints his pieces on location, although he photographs scenes and then recreates those images in his studio.

“Although I work from the landscape, all of my work is driven by my intuition and subconscious,” he said.

Another theme of Mang’s artwork is prairie grasses, which he regards as metaphorical and symbolic. He noticed that many people responded well to these works of art, although he doesn’t know why. However, creating pieces of grass gives him another way to express his inner vocabulary, including about life, death, mortality, and resilience.

“I hope people look at the landscape pieces and grasses and see them on more than one level,” he said.

The art world has never taken seriously artists who draw their works, but attitudes are changing, Mang said. Most people don’t take drawings seriously either, seeing them as small-scale and preparatory to larger works.

People also have a mental hierarchy of what is important, like watercolor or oil and acrylic instead of drawings.

“As a visual artist and someone who has worked in all these mediums, I think they’re all the same,” Mang said.

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The irony of the situation is that he still refers to his drawings as paintings, although he consciously tries to call them works or pieces.

While Mang has primarily worked in watercolor, oil and acrylic paint throughout his career, over the past decade he has worked more in dry mediums such as graphite and pastels.

However, this poses a challenge as he must protect the surfaces from damage. However, he dislikes using glass because of the expense and the fact that it creates a wall between the work and the viewer. So he tried to make his works more robust so they could be handled without smearing them.

“…but that is also my approach to life, to accept vulnerability as an ongoing aspect of life. You can’t always protect yourself,” Mang said.

Mang appreciates that the interior walls of the gallery can be moved. For his exhibition, he removed them entirely so the space could be wide open, much like the wide spaces of the valley.


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