A Portal into Effervescent Colour

Gisa Mayer Summer Vibes

By Shelby Marler

all painting photos Bugera Matheson Gallery

Many of us suffer the stress elicited by exhausting modern sublimity that never stops pushing forward. However, in my experience, a strange sense of change and motion that brings peace and vibrancy seems to be in the contrasting sublimity we see in nature..

I’ve found this especially true with mountains. Mountains, exponentially taller than us, loom over in a comforting embrace, yet they stand so strong that you can’t even imagine where that strength would even begin to come from.

Making many trips to the Banff and Jasper mountains in Alberta when I was younger was the escape I needed – the simultaneous relaxation and empowerment that ignited a paradoxical yet enriching experience.  It is magical to witness something so still yet so alive at the same time.

All of this is why I found myself so fascinated by Gisa Mayer’s Mountains in Motion when I first heard that the kind of art that it promised would find a bright spotlight in Edmonton. 

Gisa Mayer’s collection is the newest addition to Edmonton’s Bugera Matheson Gallery in Princeton Place. It brings the very elusive quality of mountains and their environment to life, or more accurately, brings the life of the mountains’ spirit to a visual canvas.

Before coming to Canada, the German painter grew up in the Bavarian Alps, where she would avidly hike, ski, and climb. Since she lived halfway between Munich and Salzburg, Mayer was exposed to many world-class Art Galleries.

The two passions would then find themselves in harmony with Mayer, as she studied Art, Art History and Romance languages in Germany, Italy and Austria, beginning a studio practice in 1982 before she decided to settle in Canada in 1989. Today, besides having been featured in the Bugera Matheson Gallery for many years, Mayer’s work is featured in a multitude of private and corporate collections in Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.    

With all of this in mind, I was jumping at the thought to go see such a promising show. It felt like an eternity since I last enjoyed something like this, and I wasn’t going to miss it. So when I had to isolate with some feverish symptoms when I was planning out this piece, I contacted the gallery to see if they would give me a tour of the gallery through zoom.

I’ll admit that I was naturally hesitant about this idea, believing as though my not-so-reliable internet would show me a washed-out watercolour blur instead of Mayer’s intended vision. However, I found myself shocked at how much I really could experience through my screen as I was given the tour – a testament to the skill and imagination that Mayer hones in on.

Mayer’s work aptly makes use of lots of very bright colours with high contrast, as though she were drawing from the most potent of pigments an artist could mix.  If I could describe Mayer’s work in any way, it would be as a marriage of contrasts. There is a strange mixture of the abstract and concrete when it comes to the structure, for Mayer is not afraid to insert harsh lines outlining the landscape, while simultaneously blurring the lines between one peak of a mountain from the next. To be successful in creating aesthetically pleasing pieces with all these elements together makes it seem like a genius accomplishment, when chaos could have easily erupted in other executions of these styles together.

Take one of my favourite pieces, for example, as pictured below. At the Source is big (3 ft by 4 ft), and features plenty of demarcated lines and structures scattered throughout, but it is tough to tell what exactly those lines are separating or distinguishing. Combined with the bright contrast of the deep teal lake and the scatterings of aqua rivers pouring from the mountains, I felt as though I stepped into an energizing world of magic in viewing this breathtaking piece.

Giza Mayer At the Source

The other favourite of mine comes with quite an opposing colour palette to the previous piece I discussed, and it comes with a title for all you music theory fans out there: Purcell Polyphony.

Although you won’t see it in these photos, an in-person or video viewing reveals that Mayer is not afraid of texture: layered acrylic gives the pieces a peculiar shift in such a three-dimensional expression. The browny yellows and oranges with the deep blue lake once again showcase Mayer’s talent in utilizing colour to her advantage, hinting at sunset arriving in the corner. Yet, despite the pattern of contrasts, Mayer’s particular use of abstract strokes feels not so much dreamy but like everything is melting together. It gives the whole piece a more hypnotic edge in comparison to the rest of the collection.

Gisa Mayer Purcell Polyphony

While all the pieces are delightful to view, I did find at times that I was a little bit too reminded of the work of Vincent Van Gogh. While I don’t believe that this takes away from the beauty of Mayer’s work, it does do a disservice to the recognizability of her style, and I see how it could easily be mistaken for a Gogh piece.  

Now, if you want to take any of these gorgeous pieces home for yourself, you’re in great luck! Many pieces from Gisa Mayer’s Mountains in Motion collection are for sale, both at the gallery and on the Bugera Matheson Gallery’s website.

The website gives a price range of all the major pieces featured in the collection (the average being around $3,000 CAD) as well as dimensions in inches. It’s just as easy as clicking “add to cart” to order one of these pieces for your own home!

If you’re looking for something a little bit easier on the wallet, there are pieces to view from the gallery in the $100-$200 CAD range in Gisa Mayer’s studies as well. Naturally, these pieces are closer to the 12 x 12 inch size range but are nonetheless just as magnificent. These pieces had a greater array of teals present in a dreamy colour palette and have more natural realism than the primary collection.

Overall, while some areas of the pieces seem a little too reminiscent of more famous artistry of the past, the collection was a delightful brightness to experience in this pandemic.

While the show isn’t up in the main viewing area anymore, all of the pieces that have not been sold will still be available to view upon request. With all that said, if you’re looking to enjoy some art in the city, I would highly recommend this gallery to indulge in a supercharged experience of visuals.

Bugera Matheson Gallery
10345 124 St, Edmonton