World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 10 - Iris Low

Coloured cubes clustered together. Three or four colours in a painting. There is a tension between the coloured cubes. Sometimes there is a wave, at other times it is more of a standstill, but you feel there is something hectic going on.

Iris Low says about her paintings: ‘I immerse myself in the colours and look for tension between small colour fields and play with layer upon layer of paint applications.’ Her brushstrokes are intuitively chosen inspired by pointilism and colour fields, looking for the effect on each other in the process.

‘On canvas I sculpt surfaces to paint on with thick mediums, using objects to stamp into it. Then I sand and scrape before painting on it with acrylics. Simplicity in my palette and subject matter is important because the world around us is already so full of clutter.’

She paints daily in her studio North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. ‘I am an introvert at heart. I was suffering from what seemed a never-ending depression and from that I produce works that depict the struggle against the darkness of depression looking for light and joy. I express in paint the power of colour and its ability to express, to communicate. I have moved from representational to abstract, it allows me a great deal of self-expression.’

Light in the darkness

‘The central theme in my work is the experience of awakening from this deep depression that lasted ten years. I want to express the hope and joy that I feel, but also translate how someone feels who suffers from mental illness, often inhabiting the fringes of society, misunderstood. The disease has for many years prevented her from exhibiting het work. Now she participates in shows in Europe and Canada.

Iris also works to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. There is beauty in the struggle to obtain light while in darkness. She is inspired by such artists as van Gogh, Rothko and De Kooning. Running the gamut from impressionism to abstract modernism. Over the years many of her works have found their way into private collections both in Europe and Canada.

Asked for her key work she says: ‘I think it is ‘Population of One’, in a gray area where a lonely person is walking. Orange is used because it expresses the clarity about your own identity  which can come while enduring loneliness. They become liberating thoughts.

Born in the Netherlands

Iris Low was born in The Netherlands.  ‘My father, Leo Mes, was also a visual artist, as well as his father. Our living room was the studio. He taught my sister and I to draw through copying Japanese and Chinese paintings. As a child I poured over all the art books we had and drew endlessly. While mostly self-taught, I have honed my skills through apprenticeships and workshops.’

As an adult, Iris studied and apprenticed with Artist and Creative Jan de Kok in Culemborg, The Netherlands. In 1991 she made a permanent move to Vancouver. She augmented her training at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Iris has also worked for many years as a Faux Finisher, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and provided companies with clipart.

Community art projects

Her earlier works were more figurative and more recently she paints the people around her. Selfies of teenagers are fascinating to her as they depict moments in time, reflective. ‘If an image pulls me in, I paint it.’ Her work is definitely inspired by impressionism, not attempting to paint an accurate portrait but the emotion and the atmosphere. The colours all touch on the feeling surrounding the subject.’ 

There is the ‘red dot series’. It explores the mind of one who is marginalized. ‘The red dot symbolizes the blood of Christ that we share when we suffer. Each painting touches on an aspect of mental illness.’

In recent years Iris began participating in community art projects, many times together with Therese Lydia Joseph, also from Vancouver. In 2013 they won the Don S. Williams Grant from Fans for the Arts on the North Shore, which recognizes the artistic contributions and accomplishment of North Shore Artists who have demonstrated a maturity of talent. With this fund, she and Therese Lydia Joseph could start a project called Faces of the North Shore. This is a series of portraits showing the multi-cultural aspect of the people living on the North Shore of Vancouver Canada. Various religions, cultures, and races live together here in harmony and accepting one another, which the artists find particularly inspiring. Therese Lydia Joseph and Iris have developed a close professional relationship and paint together weekly in studio. Their collaboration has become a source of inspiration to one another and this lead to the joint exhibition of their work at the Arps Gallery in Amsterdam.

Iris still has a strong relationship with the Netherlands because of family and lineage. ‘So I’d like to come here with my work.’                                      




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