Artist's bright colours chase the winter blues

January 13, 2005, vol. 32, no. 1
By Carol Thorbes

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Need a shot of bold and bright scenery to counter the winter blues? A stroll through the Teck gallery at Simon Fraser University's Harbour Centre campus could provide just the jolt needed.

Floor-to-ceiling paintings by Italian artist Carla Decarli adorn the public gallery until Feb. 11.

Decarli, who lives and works in Madrano in northern Italy, blends hot and cold primary colours and encircles her subject matter with heavy black outlines on cotton canvas treated with gesso and acrylic resin.

The effect: striking panels of scenery and figures that tower over viewers, drawing them into fantasy environments as exotic and steamy as their dreams of winter getaways.

Inspired by drawings she has done in sun drenched climates, her exploration of comic strip outlining, and her focus on stripping design down to its bare essentials, Decarli's show is called S-TRIP-S.

“Up until recently, I was primarily known for creating abstractions, but I stopped painting this way because I got tired of people asking me what they mean,” says Decarli. “I now paint what I like, which is primarily forms in nature reduced to their essentials.” Decarli is drawn to subjects in exotic places such as Hawaii, South America and Africa.

Grazia Merler was so taken by Decarli's work while visiting the painter's mother, a long-time friend, in Italy last year that she paved the way for Decarli to come to SFU. Merler is a former director of SFU's galleries, a professor emerita, and a former chair of SFU's French department. “The size, treatment of subject matter, and techniques used by Carla are different from what we usually see on the West Coast,” observes Merler, who is fascinated by Decarli's contrasting elements. “She has the vision and hard edge of a minimalist without being stark. Her colours and canvases are vibrant with life and joy, and yet discreet at the same time.”

The Italian Cultural Institute in Vancouver is helping to defray some of Decarli's publicity expenses, publicize her show at SFU and host an opening reception at the institute.

The institute's director, Antonio Cosenza, says, “Carla is well known in northern Italy. Her love of nature comes through clearly in the subject of her paintings, conveying her concern for environmental issues. Her paintings would make beautiful murals.”

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