May 27, 2022

This is the last week to see the unique paintings by a local artist featured in the Cambridge Centre for the Arts, before the exhibit comes to a close on March 9.

The exhibit, which opened on Feb. 2, is by local artist Bernadine Van Renne. The Centre for the Arts website boasts that her paintings “capture a fleeting photographic moment in the lives of everyday people.”

Van Renne found her inspiration while studying at the University of Waterloo, majoring in English and minoring in art history. “The studio courses I took as part of my minor sparked my interest in painting and drawing,” she said.

That spark took her to England, where she lived for four years and attended art college in London. “It was a fantastic experience not only because of my courses, but because I had access to the best galleries in the UK and in the rest of Europe. I experimented with different media, including some printmaking, but I’ve been working in acrylics for a while now.”

The paintings featured in the exhibit are modeled after old, black and white family photos, and to Van Renne, painting them felt like opening a door to the past.
“I sometimes feel like I have a strange relationship to photography. I love the fact that a moment in time has been captured. I can look at that photo and see the moment again and again. But at the same time, they leave me feeling a bit undone because that moment can’t really be brought back to life,” she said.

She was drawn to this process specifically because the photos were in black and white, giving her the challenge of adding colour.
“They were almost exclusively black and white, so I invented the colour for each painting. I loved doing that. I like exploring colour relationships and it made each one feel like a colour study in it’s own right,” she said.

Inspiration also stemmed from the book Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer, which explores the concept of memory.
“He says he’s working on expanding time so that it feels like he lives longer, and he does this by remembering more, and by making himself more aware of time’s passage. I certainly felt aware of the passage of time working from the photos. They were all taken before I was even born. He also feels that the more we pack our lives with memories, the slower time seems to fly. Taking photos and looking back at them can be one way to create more memories.”

Van Renne said people often say her paintings remind them of their childhood or triggered memories of their own. “People have said, “We had a table just like that,” or “I remember the stubby beer bottles.”

At the moment, Van Renne has no upcoming exhibits, but is focusing on her next artistic move. “After working with the photos, I like the idea of focusing on couples, but at the same time, I’d also like to get back to painting from life again.”

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