Canadian painter Paterson Ewen (1925–2002) was fascinated by rain, hail, and water, subjects that represent change and the natural world. In Coastline with Precipitation, the handmade paper is strongly textured, echoing the rough plywood he used elsewhere, in works for which he gouged the surface with a router to simulate the physical movements of rain and hail falling quickly or blowing violently.


Paterson Ewen, Coastline with Precipitation, 1975
Paterson Ewen, Coastline with Precipitation, 1975
Acrylic on paper, 34.3 x 158.8 cm, private collection

Having drawn on scientific illustrations to depict rain in previous works, in Coastline he was more likely drawing inspiration from Japanese woodcuts and from the work of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Historically a symbol of rebirth and cleansing and a source of life, water is also a metaphor for the path of life in Taoism. Ewen had a passionate interest in the history of art, and he was an avid reader of literature and philosophy, so it is not far-fetched to assume that much of this symbolism both inspired and found its way into his images of water.


This Spotlight is excerpted from Paterson Ewen: Life & Work by John G. Hatch.

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