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A marriage of styles (6 photos)

Tree Silhouettes series draws influence from the Group of Seven and European hard edge abstraction

A new exhibit by local artist Bob Young offers a personal, abstract interpretation on an iconic Canadian theme.

“In a way I want to continue that tradition of landscape painting,” said Young. “Obviously, not the same way at all but using it as a starting point.”

Young draws inspiration from artists working in the hard edge abstraction style first popularized in Europe during the early 20th Century.

“The painter in that style that really inspired me the most is Josef Albers,” said Young. “He has very simple compositions. It is just squares within squares within squares of pure colour. It is not exactly what I am doing but I just like the simplicity of it.”

Young’s love of Canadian landscape painting typically associated with The Group of Seven is also a big influence.

“I wanted to have landscape in the piece but I guess I wasn’t happy doing just straight landscapes,” he said. “So, I bring in images of tree silhouettes and get some squares going and I try to make it a balanced and interesting marriage of the two.”

Young has degrees in fine arts and environmental studies from York University as well as a degree in architecture from the University of British Columbia. He worked several years as an architect and urban planner before returning to his passion for making art in 2009.

“I feel lucky to be doing art because I am in a personal situation between my wife and myself,” he said. “If we had kids and were putting them through school or whatever I probably wouldn’t be doing this. I would still be doing the other stuff.”

Using layering and textures he works to create a visual experience that can only be appreciated in person.

“I like to have some of the interest generated by a contrast, not of colour, but of texture and transparency or opacity,” he said. “It is something that won’t come through on Internet screens. That is part of the interest. I want paintings to be able to do things visually that pixels on a screen can’t.”

Most of the paintings are simply named after the tree silhouettes featured. It is, in part, an effort to connect people with the natural world and celebrate our national identity much the same way the Group of Seven were doing.

“We like to think of it as Canada but, most people in Canada, their experience is not climbing a mountain,” said Young. “It’s drinking a Big Gulp in a 7-11 parking lot. That’s the current version of it but I still think the Group of Seven, despite the mythology, were on the right track. They were part of the conscience of colonial Canada.”

The Tree Silhouette exhibit runs from Aug. 9 to Sept. 19 at the Miijidaa Café and Bistro on Quebec Street. For more information about the exhibit and the work of Bob Young go to

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Troy Bridgeman

About the Author: Troy Bridgeman

Troy Bridgeman is a multi-media journalist that has lived and worked in the Guelph community his whole life. He has covered news and events in the city for more than two decades.
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