Rosa Quintana: Gwaii Haanas – This Precious Stone, This Silver Sea

Fazakas Gallery, 688 E Hastings St., Vancouver, BC
Nov 14, 2015 – Jan 1, 2016



Generations ago Canada’s landscape painters laid claim to so called empty spaces. It has long been asserted that these claims were part of the social and political climate of the time. Canada was forging its Nationhood and identity as master of a vast wilderness. Despite the soft beauty of Rosa Quintana’s landscapes, her motivations are just as political. Rather than creating an imagined paradise posed for exploitation, she is announcing an actual paradise with the need for protection and preservation. By placing the viewer within the landscape, rather than above it, the viewer becomes part of the landscape, connected to it rather than separate from it.


The works in this exhibition focuses around Quintana’s recent residency on the islands of Gwaii Haanas off the BC Coast. Her intention with these works was to capture the essence of the geography, culture and history of place. Through a close interaction with the land, she was able to develop a sharpened understanding of her surroundings. These interactions and the works produced as a result of them constitute her relation to, and perception of Gwaii Haanas as a sacred space.

The known record presents a partial view of the rich ancient Haida culture, but one can only imagine the many other spiritual, social and cultural variables that are still present but unseen. She depicts the preciousness of ‘empty’ space at a time when environmental preservation is so important. She is paying homage to a place that emulates sacredness, whether visible or not.

“The islands of my paintings became finite worlds on a curved horizon. Silver leaf became increasingly important as a translation of water and sky. Broad bold brushstrokes came to signify floating islands in large shimmering fields of silver.

My painting size grew larger to 44” x 72”, in response to the monumental scale of landscape, historical and contemporary Haida art as well as mythologies and politics.  – Rosa Quintana Lillo