The landscapes created by Iris Mes-Low are stylized and simple, yet beautiful and vibrant. And while she has been working within her chosen style for years, for so long there was no name she had to describe it.
It was through researching online other artists from around the world that she discovered the appropriate term: idealism
“They were saying they call it idealism,” Mes-Low says. “And so I thought that kind of sums up what I see too—a landscape, a place where I want to stand by myself and just breathe it in, just take it in—that moment of quiet when you’re by yourself and there’s no one around.”
Even though her idealist paintings are of the natural environment, she was initially inspired from somewhere more unlikely.
“It’s influenced from video games,” she says of idealism. “When I was watching my kids growing up, playing video games, as they were to what they are now, all those backgrounds are very, very idealistic, not of this world.”
Mes-Low says that idealism can appear simple because so much is stripped away. The colours are more vibrant, like a video game from the 80s or 90s. The environment is shown in its most beautiful, most pristine form.
But she recognizes this beauty is also subjective and that the ideal perspective of another artist may be completely different.
This difference can be seen in the landscape art that inspires Mes-Low, such as Canadian artists Emily Carr and Lawren Harris and American artist Grant Wood.
“The landscape can be quite overwhelming in the west coast with everything that there is, and I think that paring it down and simplifying it just seems to work,” she says.
The technique Mes-Low uses involves an underpaint layer with other colours thinly applied on top. Each thinly painted layer is influenced by the paint already laid down.
This gives her colours not only their vibrancy, but also their variance. In this, she borrows from colour theory and the psychology of colour, letting them affect those who view her work.
“When I hear people get what I’m trying to say then I feel I’m doing a good job, and I don’t want to stop doing that.”
Nature is mysterious, she says. But mystery does not necessarily mean something bad or ominous. It can be exciting or inviting and that is what she hopes people get from an idealized landscape.
“I interpret the mystery as good, as more spiritual.”
Mes-Low is currently showing her idealist landscapes as part of Art Downtown, which runs Wednesdays at Lot 19 and Fridays at Cathedral Square.
Art Downtown runs until Sept. 18.
By Nathan Durec