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Francine Gravel's Glimpse Into Another World

A Sextet at Winter Tide, Paintings 40 x 40

Francine Gravel's immensely evocative body of work offers a glimpse into another world. Gravel creates paintings with a mixture of ink, acrylic base and oil on linen, with some pieces over six feet in length. Each work is a new scene in the particular world that she has created, where romanticism, symbolism, magical realism and the pastoral ideal all meet. They have the detail of landscape painting, with every texture in place, combined with the lush palette of a saturated, not-quite-real world. While the scenes seem to take place in the countryside, there sometimes appear people and places that simply do not exist: visions of dancers in the sky, a deer with the body of a man, or a palace constructed entirely of ice. These supernatural elements aren't threatening or out of place, but rather extensions of the beauty and wonder of the landscape.

As for the actual subjects of the paintings, they are many and mysterious. Gravel paints people, usually multiple figures in one frame, in a deeply rooted partnership with the natural world surrounding them. They play music, perform acrobatics, and celebrate the seasons changing. Most of all they interact with one another in emotional but enigmatic scenes.

Gravel packs each image with little instances and hints that could take the narrative in a hundred different directions. In a poem describing her artistic process, Gravel writes "those dreams that blossom on the canvas... I nourish them with love/ And they become alive on my planet." The work truly is transporting.

Gravel was born in Montreal, Canada and today lives in the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia, where she maintains a studio. She is accomplished in etching and poetry as well as painting, and has exhibited in Belgium, England, France, Monaco, the United States, and her home country.

Originally posted in: ARTisSpectrum, November 2014

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