Nightfall at Ebey's Landing 1 by Brian Mahieu

Nightfall at Ebey's Landing 1 by Brian Mahieu

Artist’s Statement 2018

 My paintings are not, merely pictures, they are aesthetic records of a time, place and environmental envelope imbued with my internal states. Color is the most important aspect of a painting to me, and the primary conveyor of mood.  As a colorist, I distill symbolic landscapes from nature with expressive brushwork and color—creating paint surfaces that are landscapes of their own. I have been a plein air oil painter for thirty years—painting directly from nature as the Impressionists did. My first plein air moonrise, painted in 1985, was signed with the date and time of completion and that practice has carried through to this day. In 1987 I lived in Paris for a month and was able to see the Impressionist masterpieces and to visit Monet’s garden at Giverny and to see the French countryside he painted. This cemented my resolve to paint exclusively from nature and upon my return my professor allowed me to paint outdoors and meet with him once a week for critiques. For my last two years in college, this was my practice. Though many artists I admire reworked their paintings in the studio, then and now, I leave them in an honest state—imperfections, bits of grass, insects, soil or fir needles remain as artifacts of the day. The focus of my career has been paintings of twilight and I often work for an hour after sunset—when it is too dark to discern the colors on my palette. When viewed in the dim natural light in which they were created, these paintings glow with a moody and surprisingly naturalistic evocation of the landscapes I experienced. 

 The practice of painting in series has been a hallmark of my work from the beginning. I like to return to the same spot over days, seasons and years to understand its essence and changeability. Ebey’s Landing was the natural choice for my first series on Whidbey Island. The unspoiled natural landscape, lack of human structures, deep vistas, and gentle collision of land and sea and sky offer endless motifs for painting the ever changing light and weather conditions. It is a thrill to paint the iridescent sunsets as otters trundle across the beach and eagles hunt on the warm updrafts, the calls of seagulls in my ears and the scent of firs and spruce and kelp on the wind. Those are inputs that I can not get in the sterile, environment of a studio. The greatest discipline of my work is stopping—leaving the imperfections, walking away when the light has changed. My left brain is always telling me I need to “fix” my paintings but I know that would drain them of life. They are honest and imperfect. To me, art is a non-verbal form of communication and my work is designed to impact viewers viscerally. It is a great thrill when a viewer slows down, takes a deep breath and looks at one of my paintings until they really see it—a flicker of recognition crosses their face, a feeling in the pit of their stomach and they say to themselves “I know how that feels.”

 —Brian Mahieu

 A native of the Midwest, Mahieu wrapped up a thirty year career of painting the Missouri River Valley with two sold-out exhibits in 2015 and 2016. At that time, just before relocating to Whidbey Island, eleven of his paintings were acquired by two Missouri museums:

 The State Historical Society of Missouri

 “His visions have a poignant and sometimes somber “poetry of place” that appeals to the tendency to associate the rhythms of the natural environment with the rhythms of human life.”

 —Joan Stack, Ph.D, Curator of Art Collections

The State Historical Society of Missouri

 Museum of Art and Archaeology University of Missouri

 “Brian Mahieu’s landscapes are stunning and haunting, and they capture the ethereal effects of atmosphere and changing light at twilight. . . his work speaks to the human condition and universal experiences that viewers from diverse backgrounds can comprehend.”

 —Alisa M. Carlson, Ph.D., Curator of European and American Art, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri