Spirit of the Hills Artist Barbara Bickell

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Trent Hill’s is the name for Eastern Ontario counties that the Trent River Basin wanders through from Peterborough via Hastings through Campbellford to Belleville and Trenton where the Trent river empties into Lake Ontario. Anybody who has traveled through this area knows the massive glacial tills that shape this countryside – farms that follow the grade, roads that curve and glide, and woods and massive mounds that abound.

For scores of years this countryside has attracted cottagers, hunters, campers, fishermen, outdoors people, and retirees. Quietly it has also built up a natural community of artisans across many crafts and disciplines. Spirit of the Hills is an artist group that taps into that vigor. You see it also in the cities throughout the area like Cobourg, Campbellford, Port Hope, Wooler and Warkworth where festivals and shops have added a new creative vitality to the area.

Take Warkworth for example. It is a town that features the Maple Syrup Festival, Long Lunch, Warkworth Western Fair and Rodeo, plus The Perfect Pie Competition in early November. And in town there are a whole bevy of new boutiques and shops such as those shown above like Back Talk Cafe, BeesKnees, The Eclectic Mix and the One Hundred Mile Diner.

In turn the One Hundred Mile diner is featuring a Spirit of the Hills artist, Barbara Bickell. Its Barbara’s art work that I would like to bring to you now.

And in witty and whimsical fashion, we start with the three crows of a piece shown just below called Times. Now I have it direct from the artist that the dancing whimsy that you see in this piece is deliberate. “It catches some of the spirit of myself and my two sisters – and our early dancing days”. Its certainly a great introduction piece to the whole exhibition of paintings. This painting injects the intellectual animation that pervades Barbara’s works – a time box of flying images below our line of cheerfully dancing crows embodies that intelligence. It is a statement about Barbara’s artistry.

Just below are two matched Fall Maple boughs easily found in the Trent Hills countryside – even I have a number of pictures that capture this scene. But not quite – running in the top third of both paintings is a bright river of light. It has living lava glow on the left and a sense of revelation with intrigue to be discovered on the right. This is another hint of the ideas flowing freely in Barbara’s works.


In the next series of paintings shown below, Barbara treats us to some seasonal views of the Trent Hill’s landscape with a difference. First there is a common cool hue reveling in the layers and forms that the countryside takes as it dons its various seasonal trappings. In the middle piece, Barbara makes explicit the the different layers and viewpoints in time. There is a touch of rhythm and repetition like in poetry and song here – as if a Courier de Bois had paddled through and left an echo sentiment and view which is replayed in a changing landscape scenes

Finally, there are reed like slalom gates in the blue rectangular waves that emerge in this heartbeat image. One can easily conjure up a Fibonacci series of ideas and sentiments from this savvy image. I liked it so much I adopted the same style in putting together the paintings from Barbara’s show. However, this is only a sampler of what Barbara’s show has to offer. There are a dozen more paintings on exhibit. So if you find yourself traveling Ontario East, take an excursion up and off the 401 at Brighton or Colborne exits and see what Warkworth has to offer. And do stop by for an intelligent bite with Barbara’s show at the 100 Mile Diner in “downtown” Warkworth. And for wine fanciers, there is the Oak Heights Winery 5 kilometers due West or the WestBen Theater for a musical treat in Campbellford just up the way.

You can contact Barbara by email or at 905-797-3007  and see more of her art works on her website.

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