Highlighting Joy

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Erica Dornbusch wants to spread joy, and she aims to do so through her colourful paintings. "It’s important to access joy yourself," she said. Dornbusch hopes her exhibit at Westland Gallery gives that access to people.

In her artist statement, she said "Fifteen large paintings will portray the findings of my examination of light as a physical and metaphorical topic … As a visually impaired artist with extreme light sensitivity, I maintain a wary association with light."

One of the paintings depicts Gibbons Park, where Dornbusch runs with a friend. "She’s my running guide. I watch her feet. Our senses are so intertwined – it’s how I move in the world. If I can’t see it, I listen to the rhythm of my friend’s footsteps." The resulting work reflects the contrast of light and shadow in the rhythm of brush strokes and pigments.

A portrait also draws on Dornbusch’s approach to light. After creating a more conventional portrait, she intends to deconstruct it to bring out deeper meaning. "I’m going to try to show how I see – the movement, the blurriness and depth perception. I get a different sense from people. We forget who we are intrinsically, the sacredness of being. When I’m painting, I try to convey this."

She said transforming the concepts in her head to the canvas can be challenging. "It already exists in your head, but in a format in your enriched imagination not a two-dimensional surface. You can’t replicate that."

As well as being happy with the translation, an artist must think about marketability. "It’s a balance of work you love and believe in, and that will also find an audience." Sometimes she starts the creative process with a photo, other times with an idea. "I take photographs. When I’m back (in the studio) I do sketches and work up the composition. I block it in at first so it’s clear where the light is. The piece starts to speak on its own. I’ll start to pick up patterns, rhythms and overall design. Then it becomes more like a piece of poetry written by light."

Dornbusch began painting full time five years ago when her vision made continuing as a graphic artist too difficult. "I always wanted to paint but had not thought it was a viable option."

As well as quickly becoming one of the area’s better-known emerging artists, she is working on a book based on a pop-up exhibit held last year at Westland Gallery. A London Arts Council grant makes it possible for Dornbusch to develop the series of prose paintings, which combines visual and written art, into a book.

Her work is available through Westland Gallery, The Art Exchange and Galerie Bloom in Montreal.