Over a forty years period as a professional artist, Edward Epp has been consumed by a passion for painting. He has become known as a landscape painter, but the terms of the relationship between landscape and his practice as an artist are complex and evolving.
Epp has travelled extensively and has lived and painted in Liberia, Botswana, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Whether travelling or at home, he paints whenever he can snatch time. Artist’s materials travel with him everywhere. Using frames made from wood and insulating foam to support paper or canvas, he sets himself up on the side of a highway, on a floatplane dock, beside a marina, or anywhere opportunities present themselves, and paints.
The artist has lived in Northwest BC since 1988, during which time he produced what amounts to a comprehensive survey of the land through watercolour and acrylic paintings. After moving to Prince Rupert in 1999, he started to regularly include the ocean in his subject matter. Freighters and other ships frequently use the waters around Prince Rupert, the third deepest natural harbour in the world. From Epp’s perspective as a painter, they were simply devices that helped break up the seascape, introducing man-made elements to the natural environment.
During a trip to Quebec’s les Iles de la Madeleine, he became aware of the imprint that culture and history left, not only on the land, but also on the sea-going vessels he saw there. Epp realized that it spoke to cultural traditions, family and community histories that could be traced back hundreds of years, at least to the early days of European immigration.
“For me it goes beyond the physical resemblance of landscape; to the inner, fully felt-poetic dimension. There is a critical urge to transcend the predictable. Beyond the mundane chores of commerce that I must endure like everyone else, a requirement to give form to the intuitive and the ideal beckons. In my art this is concretized through my search to push the medium beyond the known and sure, to move into a ‘fresh’ zone where I never traveled. This place, the ‘placeless’, is hinted at only too slowly and painfully, it seems to me, as I gain experience and confidence in the medium.”
Edward is known for his ‘plein air’ painting. He works on several paintings at a time outside in the elements. Often the rain and wind contribute to the creation of his work.
“Sometimes in the long, long winter, when wind tears the rain across my face, lumps of acrylic stream off the canvas, and sufficient working light disappears by 4:30 pm, I wonder about the sanity of working as a singular artist, “hanging in” here after all these years. Yet, hope persists that the works of art that have been fashioned over this period of time as an artist/seeker in this challenging zone may be viewed as a distinct, valuable portrayal of the tensions experienced in this remote region. “
His paintings and process evoke a deep respect and love of the land which he paints.
“Perched on the frail edge of the land, blasted by violent southeast gales, occasionally clouds lift, and we view a sublime panorama. Green and blue mountains are penetrated by grey waters, highways of commerce and trade which spread to the infinite Orient. Trains hiss and steam motionless before they chug eastward on the rails. Highways roll patiently over the shoulders of the mountains beyond Port Edward. Here, pressed against the shores of the Pacific, one is acutely conscious of beginnings and endings, of the Yellowhead and the Pacific Ocean. Similarly we yearn for the birth of a new hopeful era, and, good riddance to a violent and ignorant one.”
“Like anthems and intonations, these images of boats, trains and freighters move through the coastal light and space, arousing the inner eye and inner ear. Might these be acceptable as metaphors for time and passage as much as a reflection of what can be seen? We pray that, slowly, frozen conceptions that lock us in the past melt under the warm gaze of the curious, innocent and wise.”
Prince Rupert, B.C.
– Poem by Leanne Boschman