July 15, 2021
Whimsical is often the first word to come to mind when viewing Audrey Mabee’s work, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Perhaps at first glance, but when you stand to look into any of the worlds she has painted, it is easy to get sucked into the colourful magic that goes far beyond whimsey.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about the design areas and the negative spaces,” described Mabee.
“So the background is a very important part of what I am doing. Some of the little shapes that happen that don't look like they are anything, they are really important to the design of what I am doing.”
She achieves a tricky balance in making the backgrounds just as interesting as the subjects in the foreground. This is a remarkable challenge, because the subjects she paints are sublimely interesting.
Her human figures range widely, but are typically female and holding a glass of wine or umbrella or something else fantastical. At least in her more recent works.
There is a movement to them, and the proportions are, in fact, often a little off - but it always works.
“They are certainly not realistic renderings, but I have done so much life drawing in my life from models, that I've learned enough that I can exaggerate things without making them really awkward,” she said.
“At least I think.”
Their settings, on the other hand, are just as pleasing, with strong colours and simple lines that always feel just right. Like a trip to Italy or a weekend in Spain, they can be comfortable and exotic to the senses at the same time.
“...with every painting I do, I learn something. I learn something new. Whether it's mixing colours - I mix a lot of colours - but I just learn something new,” said Mabee.
“And something appeals to me and then I go with that for a while, then move on to something else.”
On the complete flip side, she is known for her Chinese ink drawings. Crows, cats, and angels having bad hair days, all in the expression of fun and with precise knowledge of the moose hair brush she uses.
That is the beauty of her work. Simple and fun, but arrived upon from years of intense experience in art. A lifetime of saying ‘yes’ to whatever came her way, whether she felt ready or not.
In the 60s, Mabee worked for an ad agency where she got the most experience coming right out of art school, the former to the Alberta College of Art and Design.
She also acted as president for the art college, taught at an all boys school for many years, and ran her own gallery in downtown Calgary called the Croft, which specialized in ceramics.
“I really have been lucky though because opportunities came my way, and I never said no to anything.
“Even when they asked me to be the president of the Art College, I didn't know how to be a president of an Art College or anything else!
“But I said ‘Oh yeahI can do that!’”
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Bluerock Gallery Inc. acknowledges the land in which it is is situated on as the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.