As an artist, I explore disused lands in the urban environment and the inner spaces of the mind. Each artwork has its own story!

My eclectic projects explore troubling aspects of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. I am attracted to unnoticed patches of land, abandoned Nature in urban and rural environments, and the energy of plants in their infinite detail.

Since the completion of my Masters of Fine Arts degree in 2014, my work has changed substantially. Before my graduate studies, I had become dissatisfied with conventional landscape painting and I felt the need to deepen and expand my practice. I have since developed my theoretical basis as a guide to making more complex works. I draw on multiple sources of history and contemporary art in order to elicit thoughtful responses from viewers.

I interpret a specific locale thematically to determine the techniques and materials for a project. Photography has been an integral starting point in my process since the beginning of my career. I now use pinhole lenses to capture my impressions while on location. Experimentation follows with drawings on paper, collages and photographs that refine initial ideas. Each finished artwork evolves beyond its starting points, as reference material is set aside.

Naturo Elementa (2020-22) is an exploration of semi-urban environments similar to Michel Foucault’s ambiguous gardens in « Des espaces autres.» A vacant lot and an overgrown back yard became the source for this series. Intense colour and bright light in these works respond in part to the gloom of the pandemic. The paintings celebrate movement and freedom in the natural world with loosely applied dry pastel and transparent acrylic on wood.

My series
Vanitas by the Sea / Vanitas par la mer (2020-21) is a re-interpretation of Baroque Vanitas art in 17th century Europe that hints at humanity’s indifference towards the natural environment. The stunning growth of wildflowers and other plants along the coastline of Terra Nova National Park NL (The Rooms Artist Residency 2018) led to this series of paintings. Worked in pencil crayon and acrylic on wood with shards of Plexiglass, discarded objects emerge from the shadows of vegetation.

Carl Jung’s classic
Man and His Symbols provides background material to Surreal (2022 ongoing), photographic montages of figures within ephemeral environments. The human face intensifies the emotional range of each image. Pinhole lenses capture movement, soft-focus details and distortions that contribute to the dream-like effect.

Based on research at the SÌM residency (Reykjavik, Iceland 2015),
Rencontre primordial / Primodial Encounter (2016–18) expresses the omnipresence of humanity in remote areas of the earth. Electrical and communication equipment punctuates vast, volcanic terrain in surprising ways, reminding me of sociologist Ulrich Beck’s discussions of globalization. Mylar and Plexiglass represent machines, while wood grain and paint portray the landscape.

I plan to develop a new series in September 2023, during the Constellation Bleue Residency (Shippagan, NB) and “Naturo Elementa” at Galerie d’art Bernard-Jean (Caraquet, NB).

Barbara Safran de Niverville
March 2023