World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 29 - Valerie Kent
Valerie Kent is a Canadian artist. She lives and works near Toronto and, increasingly, all over the world. Born in Hungary, she moved with her parents and two sisters as a 4 year old to Montreal. Their house burnt down, but the neighbour took the family – in the meantime expanded with a baby boy – in.
‘It showed the goodness of others’, Valerie says. ‘We even didn’t know this neighbour very well.’ The main subject of her paintings is markets, lively markets, all over the world. ‘People have a need for connection and communication. They are universal needs. The marketplaces are the networks wherein people connect, and trade their goods and interact, share and exchange ideas.
The Internet is now a parallel marketplace interconnecting people and their goods and services. It’s a new mode, but it corresponds to the same need. It is the antithesis of guns, wars, strife and disconnect.’
The sounds of the market
The idea to explore this theme began a few years ago. Valerie Kent started with a very abstract piece. She had travelled to many kinds of markets in many destinations, Thinking about the motif, she began to incorporate more recognizable, yet abstracted figures in abstracted urban and rural settings.
She made sketches and photographs of the open produce markets. With clothing, fabrics, carpets, crafts, household goods and vegetables. Also cooked food stalls. ‘I painted the sounds and the hustle and bustle, the body language, the exchanges between people. I incorporated culture, tradition and ethnicity.’
Night lights glittering
She visited the markets in the Luberon mountains in France, in the steep hillside towns and in Aix en Provence along the center in the major street. The markets showed up in Tuscany in the San Gimignano square, all set up and ready when she got up in the morning.
In Morocco the markets went on and on in the narrow curving laneways in the Casbah with no end, hawking their leather goods, Furniture, jewelry, head gear, carpets and the sounds of people bargaining for their treasures. In Taipei there were markets under the overpasses of the highways, with beautiful semi-preciuos stone jewellery and flowers galore.
In Korea she saw the markets associated with the Gates around Seoul with beautiful silk clothing, bed linens, hand stitched pillow cases. In Hong Kong the night markets where you can buy almost anything, the electrical wires waving eerily overhead and the night lights glittering.
Kent: ‘The glory of all these colors, shapes, forms, values, textures, kept playing in my head like a piece of Music that I could not stop humming. The people of so may nationalities melded together and they all became interwoven.’ Finally, a year ago she actually started painting them.
The need to extract the connection and communication continues to inform the works. Depending where they are the freedom to offer markets, the lack of goods, or fear or reprisal may be restricting their practice. ‘It was this connection that really moved me.’
A key piece in her work is the piece of the Casbah. ‘It was one of the earlier pieces and it challenged me to explore abstracted figures in an abstracted urban landscape. The use of strong shapes, and faceless figures which could be all people moving in their shadowy worlds made me question what is all represented to me. The faceless figures could be any of us. The shadows and the shapes and the spaces could be any city, town or rural setting. We are the everyman everywhere.’
In 2015 Valerie Kent’s career will span 50 years. She started exhibiting her work as a young person and painted in various media ever since. Her first painting was in oil paint. In university she also studied acrylic, watercolour, metal and fibreglass sculpture. For two years she worked making intaglio prints and etchings.
Her life as an artist had its ups and downs. ‘I found out that in Canada is is not possible to live on painting alone. I added teaching to my repertoire. For 21 years I taught art in the public school system and at the moment I teach at several colleges, art schools and art societies all over the Province of Ontario.’
She also did art therapy at hospitals and long term care facilities, she juried art shows for towns, art museums and art societies and taught painting on River cruises in France and led workshops in Tuscany and the Provence. Recently she was included in a prominent art exhibition in Shenzen, China, with art being auctioned for the United Nations charitable organization.
"I have loved doing all these things. New avenues have opened lately. I will be more involved with artist residencies in the Dominican Republic and Paros, Greece."
Strong, positive, vivid color
Overlooking the picturesque landscape Kent says: ‘Today there are many artists who portray the seamier side of life, the sorrow and the pain we suffer both as nations and individually cause each other. In the Netherlands Marlene Dumas has taken up the call to bring it to the attention of mankind. She works in the negative aesthetic, as did Van Gogh, Picasso, Francis Bacon, brilliant artists all.
As will be clear my artistic philosophy is to depict ways in which human beings can connect, network and communicate between all peoples, be they of diverse cultures, traditions and ethnicity. The Marketplace series is painted in strong, positive, vivid color. The abstracted figures move about faceless, they are anyone and are moving anywhere. Through the motif of the Marketplace I express a desirable future without hate, destruction, guilt, death, or fear.’