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Sacred spaces in local places

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Pemberton artist finds spirituality in his surroundings

Who : Gavin Livingstone, Sacred Space View from my Heart

Where : MY (Millennium) Place

When : Artist reception Friday, Sept. 5, 6-8 p.m.

Gavin Livingstone breathes deeply.

At the end of a thought, in the natural pauses that pepper a conversation, he takes the opportunity to close his wide, expressive eyes and draw a smooth, cleansing breath. It’s as though he is milking the air for energy that regular breathers don’t bother with.

The Pemberton painter displays the same intensity toward his craft as he does toward the art of breathing. It’s understandable since the journey toward the discovery of painting both saved and changed his life.

During a visit to the upstairs gallery at MY Millennium Place where a collection of his work , Sacred Space View from My Heart, is on display until the end of the month, Livingstone explained how he came to painting relatively late in life. Originally from Britain, where he had worked as a holistic healer, Livingstone and his family crossed the Atlantic in 1999. Approaching middle age and feeling trapped by a job at a car lot, he narrowly missed being crushed at his desk one day as an automobile was driven through the dealership window. He was too shaken to return, lost the lease to his house, and watched as his family fell apart.

Livingstone says he turned to painting as a way to heal, but soon discovered it to be his true passion.

"I realized, life is not a dress rehearsal," he says, explaining his decision to relocate to the Pemberton area where he supported himself by painting live and selling his work on the streets and at the Whistler Farmer’s Market.

Self-taught and self-financed, he has managed to continue doing what he loves in the area where he feels most inspired for the past four years.

"I’ve always painted landscapes, from day one. For me, living up here amongst this incredible landscape, I’ve come to really appreciate how essential it is to recognize that this is sacred space," says Livingstone, referencing the exhibit title. "It’s a common denominator that we all exist in, and we’re affected by the beauty of it. So it forms the backdrop of everything we do."

His works reflect a duality tied to his holistic view of the natural world. Scenes of mountain grandeur blend tranquil backgrounds with shocking bursts of energetic colour; smooth conventional photo-style formations lay beneath radical injections of splatter and palette knife painting. Whether presented on a wall-dominating triptych or pocket-sized cards, Livingstone’s works effectively capture the yin and yang, the vibrancy and serenity, of the area’s moutainscapes.

And the area has responded to his vision. Livingstone’s paintings have been displayed at businesses and galleries throughout Whistler, Pemberton and Vancouver. He briefly operated his own studio-gallery but found it difficult to be consistently on hand. Currently he is involved in projects to digitally animate his works for the creation of computer visuals.

But he will always find time for the one thing that he finds most sacred. Speaking to Livingstone, one gets the feeling he would just as soon give up breathing than give up painting.

"It’s a reflection of my own spiritual values," he says.

Sacred Space View from My Heart is on display upstairs at MY Millennium Place until the end of September. Livingstone will be in attendance at an artist’s reception this Friday, Sept. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 604-935-8410 for more information.

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