Expect the unexpected from Chemainus artist Philip Mix. He likes to mix it up, so to speak, from more conventional types of art.
Mix, 62, has samples of his artwork currently on display at the Chemainus Theatre Festival lobby and in the gallery to coincide with the Silent Sky production’s run until Nov. 4.
“I use a lot of contrast in my work,” he explained. “The contrast becomes the way of making the composition dynamic.”
Mix was born in Edmonton and received a Bachelor of Arts in painting from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary in 1980. His paintings have shown in several Canadian galleries and abroad in London, Israel and Cyprus.
Mix operated a conservation studio, Fine Art Restoration, in Victoria from 1986 to 2011. “That ended up being a career for me until about six years ago,” he explained.
During that time, Mix was a member of the Pacific Conservation Group and Canadian Conservation Associates. His work involved the University of Victoria, the Art Gallery, private collections and some museums.
“When it comes to paintings, it’s usually whether they’ve been damaged or around for a long time – and cleaning,” he indicated.
“A lot of very interesting work came through. I was seldom not busy. It’s a patient kind of work. It takes a lot of focus. It’s rewarding when you’ve completed it.”
He had various locations for the business in Victoria, including View Street and Hillside.
Mix, who’s married to Emma Guevara Alfaro with two kids, eventually decided Chemainus would be the ideal place for relocation for a variety of reasons.
“The other dream to coming up here was to create a studio,” he indicated. “I’ve painted in hallways and small bedrooms. You do what you do.”
Mix had a show at the Chemainus Theatre many years ago and is happy to have his works on display there again.
His bio at the theatre reads: “My paintings are intentionally spare and dispassionate. They are a study in reduction: in economy of line, confined design, select chords of colour and minimized depth of visual field.
“My desire is to produce an artwork that is beautiful for its singleness of purity and purpose: the elegance of simplicity. I choose subjects whose form or function lends itself to the discovery of some intrinsic beauty: a beauty that becomes intriguing once the inherent grace of its form has been recognized and captured.”
The current show includes abstracted depictions of sundials, metronomes, facades, drafting and carpentry tools, toy tops and reeds.
Mix’s paintings are all done on linen and exclusively with oil.
“Linen is a preferable support,” he indicated. “It is the preferable canvas, you’d say.”
The beauty in art is always in the eye of the beholder and people tend to see or focus on different aspects of any piece. That’s no different with any of Mix’s art.
“If they were looking at it, I think one of the things most people notice is the compositions are loosely based on the concept of stained glass windows,” he pointed out. ”There’s a lattice of lines that hold it in place.”
The reeds piece hanging in the upper foyer is a prime example of how Mix explores colours.
“I don’t have to be confined to colours you’d normally relate to those subjects,” he noted.
“It still speaks of concepts of ‘reeds.’ But it’s freed me from visual references requiring colours that we’re familiar with.”
The same can be said about his other pieces on display and the way Mix utilizes traditional objects – some of them very unfamiliar now to the younger generation – is striking.
“I put colours side-by-side to make one sing against the other one,” he added.
At the same time, many of Mix’s pieces also create a kind of ripple effect. “I try to create with my paint that quality,” he noted.
Whether you’re an experienced art observer or a complete novice, it all requires an extra look.
“I’m pretty intense about being an artist,” Mix reasoned. “It gives people an opportunity to see art that’s not conventional.”
He’s not specifically painting to be a commercial success, but maintains a commitment to what he calls “not an inexpensive hobby.”
“I can’t ever see stopping as long as I’ve got one or two ideas in my head,” Mix quipped.