THE LUMINOUS WORLD OF ANNA KOOT
by Jennifer Thorpe
Inspired by the rural beauty of Perth County in all its seasons, Anna Koot’s encaustic art captures the luminous world around her and the results are stunningly beautiful.
An ancient art, the encaustic medium has enjoyed a resurgence that has steadily grown since the 1950s. Using four basic elements – wax, pigment, resin and heat – encaustic painting offers a myriad opportunity for experimentation with transparency and translucency, veils of colour and saturated hues, collage and texture. But it’s the hands-on technique and unique luminosity that proved to be so compelling for artist Anna Koot. It’s so tactile. And when you rub the surface the warmth from your hand just brings out the glow. The wax is very luminous. I don’t believe you can get that anywhere else.
Over the past thirty years, Anna has studied and worked in everything from mosaic, oil, acrylic, watercolour and pencil. But when she discovered encaustic painting at an exhibit at Gallery 96 in Stratford, she was hooked. I saw this little piece, and I was immediately drawn to it. I knew the artist Michelle Salter and I asked, ‘What is this?’ ‘It’s encaustic,’ she said. Anna immediately signed up for a two-day workshop with artist Andrea Bird and has been doing encaustic painting ever since.
There is something to be said for using raw materials as opposed to manufactured or processed ones. Each season, the wax is a different colour depending on the area where the hive is located and where the bees have been pollinating. Some years the wax is quite yellow while other years, more amber in colour. Working from her studio on the family farm in Perth County, Anna creates images that glow with life: meadows of flowers bobbing their heads in the breeze, a spry brown sparrow perched in the bare branches of a maple in spring, Queen Anne’s Lace rustling in the winter wind, a playful kid peeping around the barn door. Using texture, colour and luminosity with exquisite mastery, her work captures the changing colours of a winter sky, the softness of snowfall, the translucent colours of flower petals in the sunlight.
Heat is an integral part of the encaustic process. Wax is melted on an electric griddle and applied with brushes to the painting surface. As the wax leaves the heat source, it begins to cool and harden. I have to move quickly as I paint, taking advantage of the liquid state of the wax.
This stage of the painting development is repeated numerous times. Layers of wax are often scraped back to reveal unexpected colour combinations, created by the repeated application of heat to the surface. More heat, more layers of wax. I get lost in the process of adding and excavating as I follow the natural flow of building layers.
Using wax also allows for interesting textural composition. Anna’s birds are small masterpieces of delicate detail, and her flower fields are a study of slender stems supporting luscious blooms. If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere, wrote Vincent van Gogh, an artist who also used beeswax in his painting. The beauty of the natural world made luminous – this is the art of Anna Koot. Her work is available online at www.annakoot.com, and at Zenfire Pottery in St Marys, and the Westland Gallery in London.