Carle Hessay
Canadian artist

Introducing Carle Hessay: Artist, Musician, and Humanitarian

Forest Fire Painting: Red Flame

 

 

Wildfires are currently burning with greater intensity and frequency than ever before. As if predictive of such increasing environmental disasters, many of Carle Hessay's paintings show forests and man-made structures going up in flames. Carle was an avid prospector travelling to the remote interior regions of the West Coast. He would have frequently come across the charred remains of fires in his trips to gather images for his paintings. Instead of finding restoration in nature as was usually the case, such images appear to have gained apocalyptic and symbolic proportions for him. A survivor of many tragedies, including wars, he saw that the magnitude of such events recalled historical man-made and existential disasters and presaged future destruction. As his former partner, Sheila Lawrence, observed, his fire paintings often reflect his anger at the greed of large corporations who go into forests and jungles to burn large swaths of vegetation for their own industrial projects, irrespective of the native inhabitants and nature. Now we see this practice as precipitating climate change as well.

This painting shows charred trees being consumed by bright red avaricious flames. The effect is enhanced by the buckling, glossy red surface of the canvas itself. In the middle of the immediate foreground there appear to be the remains of a fence indicated by some cross hatching, echoed by the crosses formed by some of the falling trees. Compositionally, a heaped, flame-like shape dominates the  burning mass as it peaks against the smoky grey background from which the fire has moved forward toward the viewer.

(Dimensions: 74.9 x 60 cm, 30 x 24 inches; oil-based paint on canvas board)

 

CARLE HESSAY IN HIS STUDIO

Carle Hessay's artist's statement, or what effectively serves as such, was included in a letter to a friend who wanted his advice on her work: "I believe it's perfectly natural for a person to have a creative urge which cries out for expression. When I look at a painting or listen to a musical composition, I try to understand the reason why this was created in the first place. I like to look at paintings that are original, of the artist's own imagination, (and) if they're poetic and communicate ideas that are new and exciting, I enjoy them that much more."  (Courtesy of Kelly Garner)

Anyone of his many friends would be greeted with warmth and mischievous humour when coming upon him in his studio in Langley BC. In this photo of Carle at work, some of his small abstract paintings are hung on a line on the wall behind him.

A Hessay painting, whatever its subject or degree of realism, is immediately recognizable by its power, expressive use of colour, and mastery of technique. As observed by art enthusiast David Douglas Hart, Carle took all the different modern art movements of the twentieth century and made them his own.

In particular, Carle "absorbed the artistic energies that characterized the 1960s" (Leonard A. Woods, Meditations on the Paintings of Carle Hessay, Trabarni, 2005). His dynamic paintings include abstracts, urban scenes, landscapes of the deep BC wilderness, ethnic, mythological, and biblical scenes, as well as Future World images.

 

This site will be updated on an ongoing basis to add more paintings and additional information.

Variations in dimensions between metric and imperial measurements may depend on whether the paintings were measured unframed or inside the frame. The sizes of the thumbnail images do not reflect the relative size of the paintings.

Please contact mhilmo@uvic.ca if you own a Hessay painting, have memories to share, or would like information on the paintings.