Carl Brenders: Portrait of An Artist
Among the artists contributing to the Algonquin Art Centre’s 2010 exhibition is Carl Brenders, a world-renowned artist and naturalist. Named the 24th Master Artist at the 2002 Birds in Art exhibition at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, and producing a body of work which has been the subject of major exhibitions and critically acclaimed books, Carl Brenders is among the leading figures in wilderness and wildlife art.
“His work is really something special,” explains Matt Coles, art director at the Algonquin Art Centre, “his composition consists of more than precision and detail; there’s a feeling in his work, a closeness which can ‘t really be described, only experienced firsthand.” Such a “closeness” has been acknowledged not only by critics and art lovers alike, but by the artist himself: “A painter is a privileged being,” says Brenders, “because in his imagination he can come very close to the animals he paints. In reality, one can never come this close to wild animals, particularly if they are predators.”
Brenders’ painting for the 2010 exhibition, however, is an exception to this rule, since it depicts two Bengal tiger cubs, lying amidst a terrain of stone, fallen leaves, and grass, cubs which Brenders himself was able to observe up close: “I held these tame models in my arms,” says Brenders, “and the feelings that filled my heart were indescribable.” His painting conveys the majesty of these sublime creatures, and is designed, as Brenders says, “to arouse the consciousness of the viewer; for new life in the wild brings hope.”
Brenders’ piece is one of the most compelling works done for the show, called “Change: An Artist’s Perspective,” a show which addresses environmental change through the artists’ eyes. His choice of subject matter derived not only from the beauty of these animals, but their endangered status: “Can we really afford to lose the most wonderful predator on this planet?” he asks, “Can we, as a so called intelligent species, be responsible for the extinction of a wonder called ‘tiger’?” He titles this piece “India was their Empire”, which cleverly insinuates that we are now experiencing the decline of such an empire. The work, then, takes on a sense of tragic beauty, for the power of these creatures, once kings of their domains, staring out from Brenders’ canvas is undermined by the knowledge of their decline; it is as the remnant of a once great empire, an empire crumbling at the hands of humans and their misguided attitudes: “Brainwashed to consume products that we really do not need,” says Brenders, “we do not realize that we contribute to the destruction of our own planet.”
Brenders’ message is clear: we, as a society, as a species, must change, must recognize the consequences of our way of life, of our relentless consumption. Otherwise, nature’s most beautiful creatures, such as the Bengal tigers, will lose more than their empire: they will lose their very natures.
“India was their Empire” will be on display at the Algonquin Art Centre from June 19 to August 1s