Emilie and Mike Fantuz evoke a sense of place with their palette knife paintings

A new exhibition focused on the transformative role of place showcases the breathtaking work of this artist couple and their unusual painting technique.

Palette knives were originally designed for mixing paints, but some artists use them for painting as well, and the results can be spectacularly eye-catching.

Emilie and Mike Fantuz are a Canadian married couple who originally met on Instagram via their love of the technique, And their new exhibition of work, Places We Are Found, is a great example of what can be achieved with it in practice.

The intense colour and intricate space division found in these paintings testifies to the transformative role of place that Mike and Emilie have realised anew in the city of St. John's, the capital and largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But it's not just about a specific location. More broadly, their work offers an opportunity to contemplate the myriad ways of perceiving and experiencing a place, fostering curiosity about the world and the interplay of diverse viewpoints.

Through presenting both aerial and street view perspectives, the artists invite viewers to delve into the varied experiences and outlooks that can coexist within a distinctive location.

The inclusion of reflection paintings also emphasises the importance of critical thinking, as the viewer becomes immersed in the place and gains insight into the artist's perspective.

Creative journeys

It's all part of a continuing creative journey by the two artists. Emile offers some insight into her own path to date.

"I was mentored by a senior artist while living on the Hawaiian island of Kauai," she explained. "I consider this the 'start' of my training. I was initially drawn to working with palette knives because they are suited for creating paintings with heavy textures.

"Over the years, as my style has developed, I have become more interested in subtle textural differences versus dramatic. I am interested in realism, and I like how it can be used to bring people in and possibly create a link to a shared feeling or memory."

Her work is influenced by her surroundings: the places she's lived in or visited. "I'm drawn to certain things intuitively," she notes. "It can range from the light at a particular moment, especially in dark surroundings or a reflection and awareness of myself in a place. I admire the work of Canadian artist Mary Pratt and the way she depicts light. I'm also inspired by the photography of Vivian Meijer and how she captures herself within her work."

Emile's palette knife paintings combine technical elements of hyperrealism with an abstracted stylisation that is distinctly her own. Through reflected imagery and complex compositions, she investigates the perception of colour and light inspired by the beauty of everyday scenes.

Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, and the UK and can be found in public collections, including Bucci Developments Vancouver, Henry Ford Hospital and The Bank of Ann Arbor, and in private collections around the world, including Canada, the United States, France, China, Cayman Islands, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Unique perspectives

And what of Mike? "I started painting with palette knives after inheriting them along with an easel from my grandfather," he reveals. "I am interested in cultural identity through geography and landscape. This interest stems from my experience as a pilot and air-traffic controller. I love geography, maps, and seeing the landscape from unique perspectives."

He takes inspiration from the work of artist Yvonne Jacquette and her depictions of New York from the aerial perspective in a time before drones. "I'm also inspired by Edward Burtynsky and how he captures human impact on the environment," he adds.

Work by Mike has appeared in exhibitions in Canada, the USA and the UK and is found in public and corporate collections, including The Rooms Provincial Art Bank, Fortis Incorporated (NL and BC), Marco Construction, The Delta Hotel St. John's, and in numerous private collections around the world, including in Canada, the United States, Norway, Italy, and England.

Places We Are Found is at Christina Parker Gallery, 50 Water Street St. John's, NL Canada A1C 1A3. The exhibition opens with an artist reception on Thursday 24 Aug, 6-8pm, and continues until 16 Sep. Music at the opening reception will be provided by Boyd Chubbs.


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