Wood art, colourful paintings harmonize in Duet in Chilliwack

Duet is an exhibition featuring the wood-turning work of Michael Hamilton-Clark, and the acrylic paintings of Mihaela Stefan in Chilliwack.

Painter Mihaela Stefan

Painter Mihaela Stefan

A new exhibition at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre will bring two contrasting art mediums together in one colourful and talented show.

Duet features the wood-turning work of Michael Hamilton-Clark, and the acrylic paintings of Mihaela Stefan.

“We thought that (the two styles) are so different that there would be no competition,” says Hamilton-Clark.

His smooth wooden bowls, plates and ornamental pieces will be surrounded by Stefan’s brightly-coloured paintings.

Coincidentally, they each found a love for their media around the same time.

In 2006, after being diagnosed with cancer, Stefan was taking her dog for a walk in Montréal when she saw the beautiful orange, red and golden colours of the autumn foliage.

“I said, ‘I hope next fall to see these leaves again.’”

So with a tiny brush, she painted for hours and hours to create the branches and leaves of her piece, Autumn Symphony.

As she battled cancer and underwent radiation treatment, she spent a lot of time painting and writing.

“Luckily, that kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to think about being sick,” she says.

Twelve years later, and she has quite the portfolio.

“I’m proud of the diversity of my art. I have (everything) from portrait to abstract to landscape,” she says. “Each and every painting has a story. Everything comes from my imagination and what happened in my life.”

She often goes back and repaints some of her work.

One of her favourite pieces is Happy Childhood, a portrait of her then seven-year-old son, Michael, sitting on a chair surrounded by toys like a train, Darth Vader, and E.T. He is also holding a flower.

But Happy Childhood actually started out as Flower for my Mother, a simple portrait of Michael in his pyjamas, holding a rose.

The inspiration for that original painting came when Michael asked his mother, a classical ballet dancer at the time, why she didn’t get flowers at the end of her performance. The following day, after Stefan’s next performance, little seven-year-old Michael surprised his mother with a flower at the end of her dance.

Later, Stefan went back and added more detail to Flower for my Mother. What emerged was Happy Childhood, a carefree portrait of her young son and everything that pleased him.

“Like dance, painting is an art without words,” she says.

Her work is full of personal portraits like Happy Childhood, as well as brightly-coloured abstracts, and beautiful landscapes. Those pieces will encompass Michael Hamilton-Clark’s earthly woodwork.

He’s been spinning wood on a lathe for 12 years, and in that time he’s made nearly 1,000 pieces and spent approximately 5,000 hours turning wood.

“Turning isn’t all plates and bowls,” he says. “There are all sorts of forms one can do.”

Hamilton-Clark also makes ornamental pieces, pens, jewelry and figurines.

“What I enjoy more is the inventive and creative process.”

One of his most recent creations are his two-piece ‘wazzos’. It comes from the French word with the same pronunciation, ‘oiseau’. And, yes, all of his wazzos are birds.

They have a penguin-like look to them featuring stout bodies, and removable and rotatable heads.

Wood-turning began for him when he wanted to make lids for jam pots for his family’s breakfast table. He used a friend’s lathe at the time, but it didn’t take long before he went out and bought a small, inexpensive one to have for himself. He’s since upgraded to a much higher quality lathe which can turn pieces of wood as large as two feet in diameter.

Hamilton-Clark works in a variety of woods including cherry, maple, ebony and oak. A lot of the wood he uses comes from friends who are falling trees.

His favourite is maple.

“It is very rewarding. It can be quite plain, or it can be highly figured,” he says.

Figured wood features detail going across the grain.

“Half the fun is cutting into the wood to see what’s inside,” he says. “You start turning and you see things. You might change (the piece) because of the grain.”

Hamilton-Clark’s work is for sale at Vancouver International Airport and at Crafthouse on Granville Island.

As wide-ranging as Stefan’s paintings are, so are Hamilton-Clark’s wood-turned pieces.

“They’re both creative processes and allow one to express one’s individuality,” he says.

You can check out Michael Hamilton-Clark’s woodwork and Mihaela Stefan’s paintings in the art gallery at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Duet runs from Jan. 12 to Feb. 18 with an opening reception this Saturday, Jan. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. from Wednesdays to Saturdays, plus in the evenings before some show performances.