Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Art talk: Prairie artist's depictions of vastness enveloping

  • Print

Artist William Pura has developed a particular kind of toughness to paint and photograph Manitoba's austere terrain features.

"Southern Ontario wraps around you. It is a consoling place. Here in Manitoba, you are so exposed," he says.

Pura is a tall man with a direct demeanour. He laughs easily, and his dedication to making art is palpable. It is not hard to imagine him setting up his camera in the middle of a prairie storm.

The veteran Winnipeg visual artist and noted composer will speak on June 6 at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café as part of First Friday's Art Talk/Art Walk series. The event is a rare chance to view the artist's varied bodies of work together. When seen as a whole, the works become a thorough and honest portrait of where we live.

"Here, it is very easy to get out of the city," Pura continues. "After driving 20 minutes it is possible to stand inside a whole lot of flat, empty space. Things feel like they just slide away from you, into infinity. It can be frightening, in a way, but as an artist you need to face these things."

He began painting and photographing Lake Winnipeg and the surrounding area in 2004. Like so many who live in the region, his life has been shaped by frequent interactions with the huge body of water.

Many of the photographs depict a distant horizon line, but against this constant feature, Pura has captured the distinctive light of dawn or dusk and the barely shifting tones of long, grey days. But besides being beautiful, the photos are also disconcerting, as they are largely devoid of people and can feel stark.

Familiar scenes, such as Winnipeg and Matlock beaches, are emptied of summer crowds. The best of these photos transforms these public spaces into a personal encounter with vastness, even magnificence. The fact that Lake Winnipeg is under threat of massive deterioration only adds to the series' emotional pull.

Though his Lake Winnipeg photos have yet to find a critical audience, Pura is well known for the realistic paintings of urban landscapes from the late 1980s. As the paintings describe the city at night, they are also about the dramatic interplay of light and dark. Street lamps cast an eerie glow on the manicured lawns of a city park, or throw shadows of tree branches up against the side of a house in Wolseley or the West End.

One of the things Pura loves about painting landscapes is perspective, or the chance to allow viewers to move through the space. Indeed, his paintings are strangely enveloping. In a prolonged study of one of his night scenes, it begins to feel as if we are included in its lonely narrative. Circumstances have contrived to bring us here, to this street, late at night, where we are the only ones awake.

Where many landscape artists make work that is picturesque, Pura has a proclivity for truth-telling. When it was suggested he remove the traffic signs from his paintings in order to make them more appealing, he refused.

He is equally captivated by what is beautiful and what is ugly about where we live. In his series of photos of Winnipeg's Logan Avenue, for example, there are the expected shots of old-downtown textures, but also several of old couches heaved on the side of the road.

Pura's work will appeal to anyone who has a love/hate relationship with living in Manitoba (and isn't that all of us?). We have bitterly cold winters, but Pura describes the sublime beauty of a frozen lake. Our city's empty lots and boarded-up warehouses can be depressing, but Pura lets us discover the visual intrigue in these, too.

"Some photos are more attractive, and some are actually funny, while others are more sad and bleak," Pura says of his Logan Avenue photos. "But they are part of Winnipeg, and when we as residents observe these spaces they tell us about ourselves. What we prefer and don't prefer and what we have to do to survive."

 

Sarah Swan is a Winnipeg artist and writer. She will host Art Talk/Art Walk at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café on Friday at 6 p.m. Call 204-697-7069 for tickets to the event.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2014 D5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Keri Latimer looks for beauty in the dark and the spaces between the notes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local/Standup- BABY BISON. Fort Whyte Centre's newest mother gently nudges her 50 pound, female bull calf awake. Calf born yesterday. 25 now in herd. Four more calfs are expected over the next four weeks. It is the bison's second calf. June 7, 2002.
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you like Gord Steeves’ idea to sell four city-owned golf courses to fund road renewal?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google