David T. Alexander RCA : Press

"Alexander advocates for wilderness he paints"
Source: Edmonton Journal
Published: 11/19/2004
Author: Gilbert Bouchard

Landscape painter David Alexander keeps coming back to a handful of powerful and seminally Canadian themes.

Calling them his "never-ending series of work," the B.C.-based artist's latest exhibit features examples of his four major subject matters: rock, water, forest and open prairie.

"Most of my paintings have at least one of these elements and often have two or three," he says.  Several works on display at the Vanderleelie Gallery, for example, depict heavily wooded alpine bodies of water.

"In some way, though, they all relate back to the land. Even these recent water paintings I've been doing are about reflections of the landscape and represent the inescapability of it all." 

Partially inspired by Claude Monet's impressionistic oeuvre and dedication to works that are "all surface," Alexander says his water paintings do provide him a certain liberty from traditional landscapes. 

Despite his deep abiding love of Canada and its various vistas, Alexander is a self-described travel junkie and learns a lot about the Canadian wilderness and his relationship to it by visiting other places.  Painting trips to Iceland, "a very new (volcanic) landscape," put the "very old landscape" of Canada in perspective.

 "I was told this one landscape I had painted had literally blown up, which means that when I return to Iceland, I get to visit and paint a whole new landscape.

More than just a passive documentarian of Canada's wilderness via his artwork, Alexander is quick to agitate for a more empowered and engaged sense of stewardship over our natural spaces.

"Too many Canadians just don't know what stewardship means.  I have a great desire to see the land here in its present condition for the next 500 years."

He says one of the biggest barriers towards proper conservation techniques is a too-narrow view of Canada's landscape that only measures the value of the land by its development potential. This attitude is reflected by the negative connotations embodied by many of the terms we use, like "scrub brush," as if this were "land left over from development."

"Elk Island (National) Park is pretty much all scrubby brush land, but it's really beautiful."

Alexander is best-known for his large-scale acrylic paintings, but his Vanderleelie exhibit also boasts a series of smaller panels that were part of a 150 work series he produced when working out of an unheated garage last winter, while waiting for his new Kelowna house and studio to be completed.

The desire to display his small work reflects Alexander's affection for working with less commercially viable art forms.

"I really like the idea of being able to ship an exhibition in a shoebox and am just as thrilled by a painting that's eight centimetres square as one that's two by three metres," he says, underlining that dealers lean towards larger work because it's an easier and more cost-effective sale.

"I'm going back to painting a series of small paintings later this winter, which for me is all about turning my back on the art world for a few months and feeling like I'm a student again as I experiment."