Nocturnes III

Nocturnes III
New Paintings of the Vancouver and Seattle Harbours
Visual Space Gallery, Vancouver, May 29-31, 2015

view press release and review of exhibit, below

Press Release

Nocturnes III is the third series of harbour paintings by Vancouver artist David Haughton. The images capture Vancouver and Seattle in the early morning and at night. Several portray familiar locations like the Lions and the Lions Gate Bridge. Other paintings feature recognizable skylines, city bridges and industrial wharves. Over everything he casts an orange glow that is luminous, unifying and nostalgic. The images are particularly poignant in the light of the recent oil spill and plans to increase the number of tankers in the Vancouver harbour.

Haughton’s rapid-fire, masterful suggestions of form and shape, his wide textural passages of colour, and his quickly sketched contour lines transcend realism and create an epic feeling. The shapes are often ambiguous, with cranes on the horizon tilting like enormous religions objects, or dramatic contrasts of dark and light hinting at forms in the foreground. As a whole, the paintings are more like visual poems.

In the most engaging areas, Haughton has applied pinprick details of light to the bridge wings, masts and cabins of the freighters, and along the edges of harbour cranes, docks and warehouses.  In turn, the threads and dots of light cast magnificent, radiant patterns across the sea. Like grace notes in a piece of music, they add visual intrigue, nuance and even playfulness to the more somber, looming shapes of mountains and trees.

With the delicacy of details against the strength of background forms and the ever-present shifting seas, these are some of Haughton’s most memorable works.


Kelsey Klassen — Westender

When LA artist David Haughton moved to Vancouver, he fell in love with Burrard Inlet. The mountains, the sunsets, the tankers …

For 24 years since, the accomplished painter, who works as a pediatric emergency doctor to “pay the bills”, has painted vivid portraits of the working harbour, capturing the beauty of the freighters and sailboats as they maneuver under morning, evening and night skies.

“It’s fascinated me from the moment I got here,’ says Haughton. “The moment I saw it I thought, this is just so cool, this is just so beautiful with the mountains and the sea planes going back and forth,.

But it was the tankers, Haughton says, that piqued his interest the most.

“The tankers, in some ways,” he ponders, “are the most interesting architectural objects in the landscape.”

Since 1991, Haughton has taken time off work to document the Burrard Inlet and Georgia Strait on canvas. Across three series of habour paintings, Haughton has struck up an aesthetic relationship with the cargo ships and tankers that dot the horizon, framing their shapes with beaches, bridges, cranes, clouds, and trees in luminous acrylic.

“I don’t necessarily associate them with oil spills or bad things,” he explains. “I think of them as being interesting objects that change as they shift, and everybody is paddling around them or sailing around them. Goodness knows it’s just an idyllic landscape, and I’ve loved it since I first got here.”

In light of the recent bunker-fuel spill, however, which dumped at least 2800 litres from a grain ship into English Bay, and talk of increased oil tanker traffic from Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby terminal, Haughton says his latest series, Nocturnes III, is a reminder of what could be lost.

“This series is a bit poignant, anyway, because of the colour at the end of the day,” says Haughton, “and it becomes more poignant as you think about the potential arguments about the environment, [and that] the landscape we love may also disappear if these changes happen.”

Haughton wonders, as a painter, what that might look like.

“If they twin the pipeline, there will be hundreds of tankers, versus 20 or 30. It’s quite a different aesthetic,” he postulates, “and it might be too dangerous for people. They might have to say, ‘Okay, you can’t go sailing out there because there’s too many big ships.’ I don’t know how it will play out, but it’s fascinating to me as I’m sitting here.”

Twenty-one paintings from his latest collection will be for sale this weekend at a three-day “flash” exhibition at the Visual Space Gallery (3352 Dunbar) from May 29-31, noon to 5pm daily. They will feature scenes from Vancouver and Seattle in the early morning and at night.

“Part of the joy of living here in Vancouver, whether you’re conservative or liberal, favour business, favour pipelines, is this is a gorgeous place to live. And it will be less so,” he concludes. “The lightness and play that you have when you look out on the water, at everything going on out there, will be significantly diminished, I think.

“It will certainly be less fun to paint.”

© 2015 Vancouver Westender