Ava P. Christl, the new artist-in-residence at the Ranger Station Gallery, next to some of her work for an upcoming exhibition on the Skeena River. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

‘Re-emerging’ artist takes on Harrison’s Ranger Station residency

Painter Ava P. Christl will be the gallery’s newest artist in residence

Ava P. Christl is heading into her year as the resident painter at the Ranger Station Gallery as a “re-emerging artist.”

“I had my big practice, and I’ve showed my work all over Western Canada and the North,” Christl explained, sitting in the kitchen of the artist-in-residence’s home at the Ranger Station. “My work’s in public and private collections across the country, and even some in the states.

“So I have had that, and then I changed direction when I went to Victoria” in 2005, she continued. “I’ve just retired now, so I’m starting it up again.”

Christl has spent much of her career in Canada’s northern communities, documenting the landscapes there through paint. Growing up in Terrace, Christl had spent her childhood drawing and painting. But she didn’t actually start her artistic career until later in life, after she was nearing her 30s and had moved to Yellowknife to work in administration.

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“I’m not so sure it was really even an intention to become an artist at that point, it was just that I wanted to explore a part of me that hadn’t been explored before,” she said.

Christl moved to Nova Scotia to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. There, she discovered her love of painting.

“Why painting? Why anything, really,” she said. “It’s just the thing that spoke to me the most. I felt like I could express myself more readily through paint and communicate more readily through paint.”

Christl took her painting back to the northern territories, eventually settling in the Yukon to develop a full-time studio up there. Back then, in the ’80s and ’90s, it was harder to get your artwork known outside of the north, but Christl persevered and ended up with her paintings in collections across the country.

In 2005, Christl moved to Victoria, and for 14 years took a break from full-time painting. However, she filled her time with artist residencies, taking some scheduled time away to focus on her work.

“It’s always fun to be in a new community and to get to know new people,” Christl said, “to learn from and to share with whoever shows up in the new place.”

“It’s fun to challenge yourself in that way too, to see what new comes from it, in terms of your work and also your personal growth. There’s always something to be learned.”

Now, Christl will be taking on Harrison’s Ranger Station Galley as the artist in residence for the next year, and spending her time focusing on the landscape-style paintings she’s known for.

“They’re not landscapes per say; they’re not pretty vistas,” Christl said about her work. “They’re more … emotive rather than descriptive. They’re based on real places, but they’re more about the feeling of the place.”

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During her time at the Ranger Station, Christl plans to work on a series of paintings about the Skeena River — the river that flows past her hometown of Terrace.

“It’s kind of a … memoir in a way,” she said. “Just looking back on a place that was familiar and favourite to me as a kid, and the many times that I have travelled along the river since.”

Although Christl will be working on her series about the Skeena River, which she plans to showcase in a gallery exhibition next fall in Terrace when her residency is over, she will also be working on her as-yet-undetermined exhibition for the Ranger Station Gallery, which will be unveiled next June.


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