There is excitement, confidence and pride in Lucas Simpson as he talks about his solo art exhibition currently on display at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
“It’s not like I’m curious and not really clear as to what I’m here to do,” the 25-year-old Chilliwack artist said. “I’m here to be an artist, I’m here to bring a little more colour to this crazy COVID world right now… I’m here to be taken seriously.”
His show, simply titled ‘Lucas Simpson,’ opened on Feb. 8 in the O’Connor Group Art Gallery.
Simpson has only been painting for about four years, but ever since he started experimenting with art following a depressed state in his early 20s, he’s been passionate about it.
“One day I was in a really low state of mind,” he recalled.
He was home from university visiting family for the Christmas holidays and was going through a bit of an identity crisis. He was in the middle of studying theatre at the University of Victoria and had started to fall out of love with it, wondering where his life was going.
Simpson purchased a felt brush set and a sketchbook and headed down to Cultus Lake early one winter morning. No one was there.
“I had this impulse voice in my body saying ‘pull out that book and just start, please just start.’”
He noticed a small branch on the water’s edge and thought “people can draw sticks, that’s where people mostly start is with stick figures.’”
He studied that little stick and all its details, using every single colour in the brush kit to draw that one branch.
When he was finished he was so excited with what he produced that he continued drawing in the days and weeks that followed. He drew faces, figures, abstracts, close-ups and dreamscapes. He started experimenting with pen and graphite, began studying textures, details and shadows.
“I just got so hyped up on this energy and excitement… just letting my mind flow.”
Simpson took a handful of art history classes while he finished his studies at UVic. He said he’s “inspired by the braveness of the impressionists” like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin.
Simpson describes his work as “fragmented impressionism: fragmented in regards to form, but impressionist in regards to richness in colour, essence and atmosphere.”
The colours in his work are not blended. Instead single brush strokes are used to define an entire branch on a tree, for example.
Three years into his career as an artist, COVID-19 hit. Simpson almost went back into a depressed state. It was about six months into the pandemic when he embraced a style that’s “both abstract work and landscape art.”
Simpson has been commissioned to do work for individuals and businesses. During recent pandemic closures at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, he painted a mural in the women’s washroom as one of the many colourful additions that have been completed in the building.
His show was supposed to open at the end of November, but it got postponed due to provincial public health restrictions.
“I think it’s been a blessing in disguise because who else tries to open an art show during one of the worst pandemics in history? I’m living through a moment in very important history… and here I am trying to make colours happen,” he said. “I will never forget this time period as the time when I was starting to take myself seriously.”
His favourite piece is titled ‘Sunset over Cultus’ where a purple-and-blue sky glows above deep blue-and-black mountains. The sunset, along with bright lights from houses on the water’s edge, are reflected in the lake.
“I feel like I really nailed the atmosphere of being on that lake late at night on a summer evening. It’s the one I most identify with when it comes to my art presence because that lake was where it started.”
Lucas Simpson’s solo exhibition is on display from Feb. 8 to March 19 in the O’Connor Group Art Gallery at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.