Exhibition captures calm Zen garden
March 18, 2014
This work by Minden resident Olya Chudnovsky represents symbolically the elements of a Japanese Zen garden. The monk stares out from the middle of the painting with elements of the garden around him, including cherry blossoms to the right, a tea house below and raked gravel swirling through the centre. The painting is part of the Zen Garden exhibition on at the Rails End Gallery in Haliburton until April 19, 2014. JENN WATT STAFF
Around him, symbols of a Japanese Zen garden swirl; the pattern of a traditional rake on gravel, the peaked roof of a tea house, the deep red of the floor runner and flowing waves of magnolias. The monk watches over all of Olya Chudnovsky’s paintings at the Rails End Gallery, each representing an aspect of a Zen garden, also known as a Japanese rock garden.
There are the irises – contours of reds and oranges, looking both floral and otherworldly – the Queen Anne’s lace against a deep blue Haliburton sky and the Japanese maple canvas, painted almost entirely in a rich red.
It’s Chudnovsky’s own garden of sorts, pulled together for an exhibition at the gallery on until April 19.
“I’m realizing that I’m still researching the subject matter, I mean, the zen garden experience. It could be in colours, it could be in forms, it could be some symbols. It just very organically came together,” said the artist, who is a financial planner living just outside Minden.
Chudnovsky and her husband Boris travelled to Kyoto about four years ago, exclusively touring the city’s Zen gardens for two weeks.
The experience has informed her work ever since.
“I’m very surprised how it grows. The aftertaste is much more powerful than the trip itself,” she said.
The calm of nature is reflected throughout the collection: a cool winter tree, a painterly pear, a larger-than-life vase of flowers.
Beyond the literal subject matter, Chudnovsky is interested in conveying emotion through colour.
Take the Japanese maple painting.
“In the fall, there is a lot of red colour … but among this red sometimes is a small piece of such a red that you just stop and you’re mesmerized by this. It’s an attempt to get these feelings,” she said.
Zen Garden is Chudnovsky’s first exhibition. She started painting about 10 years ago as a hobby, which she said has taken over her life.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, the Chudnovskys lived in Toronto for many years before heading north to their favourite vacation spot in the Haliburton Highlands. They bought their place nine years ago and settled in fulltime four years ago.
“We love it here. It’s a beautiful spot of the land,” she said.
The Rails End Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 23 York St., Haliburton, 705-457-2330.