April Bending hails from western Canada and for many years has resided in the warm climes of the Cayman Islands creating intuitive, emblematic paintings from memories. Bending, an empathic woman whose pictures are instinctive reactions to any subjects she may see before her eyes, received formal university training in Alberta and organized exhibitions at galleries in Toronto. Her father sparked her choice to become a painter, a vocation held sacred by her, where the images she today so sagaciously conjures, flow to us directly from her heart.
She paints from memory, not from an image placed next to her easel, filtering out what is unimportant in her subjects, unfettered by details, to create impressions spontaneous and paired down to essences so that our eyes are drawn to a spiritual relationship with them. Forgive the pun, but the artist spends her time “bending” realities of her subjects into dreamy flickers of our prosaic world, giving us permission to transcend and a few beautiful moments we are transported.
As an artist, her paint choices are spontaneous, with pigment happily moved and laid down by slight impasto applications along with dry brush. The color shines through, pristinely, on canvases primarily monochromatic in scheme, so we are drawn to the unconscious character of the subjects she paints. Her inspirations are the feelings she receives from people, expressed through the creation of texture on the canvases. Her attention to process guides final painterly destinations, and this augments the emotional resonances of the work. The “eyes have it” in her portraits of people and are expressive and highly luminescent, dreamlike gateways for portals to the soul.
She has participated in exhibits worldwide, including a showing at the 2009 Florence Biennale. One of her paintings was chosen for the New Art International Cover Award, an intimation of a sailboat floating through misty seas.
With waters as her motif, she has created numerous aquatic canvases with fish, wriggling and swaying in abstract grounds of painted oceans, as they avoid the fishermen’s ominous hooks. Her years of living in the Cayman Islands have given her many maritime topics to mine for visuals that subliminally inform the works. Her depictions of koi are colorful and animated in contrast to the more subdued ocean fish she paints as if they were mounted. Subtle snail shells are juxtaposed in one piece, almost like rotating spirit swirls floating through the canvas, contrasting with the almost stationary fish. The representations portend the secret world lying beneath mundane existences, opening us up to questions of meaning.
Her blue acrylic, “Resolution,” is a portrait of a human head, serene and wistful in demeanor with eyes bringing an intense gaze outward as the subject looks inwardly, a ghostly small face superimposed on the forehead by the artist. Perhaps the subject is recalling someone and trying to mentally resolve a difficult situation. This is just my reading of the piece and the artist’s use of economy in expression will surely bring other interpretations to it.
An intriguing painting by Bending is “Fish of Ishtar.” The artist superimposes a monochromatic fish on a wall of ancient stones. Ishtar, or Inanna the goddess of war and fertility for the ancient Sumerians. She could create and destroy. Here, the artist’s painting of a fish could symbolize the unconscious and good fortune or refer to the Sumerian water god, Enki, lord of both wisdom and deceit. I believe she expresses a duality of emotion in this piece where this aquatic animal is both positive and negative, representing inventiveness as both a life affirming and simultaneously harmful force. The pairing down of subject to essence helps us to connect with the hidden human psyche that, to me, brings a richer meaning to the artist’s enjoyment of painting oceans jolting us to connect with feelings. The simplified images are understated but hold a large treasure chest of meaning in their hidden safe.
Bending is also responsive to the severe issue of climate change, painting canvases of polar bears and underscoring their survival threatened by global warming. As a Canadian, she is most aware of the need for preservation of the icy Arctic and its natural habitat and she paints her subjects with a sensitive, imploring brush. Her innate feeling of compassion has also led her to teach art classes to men and women in prison where her kindness has helped to bring a spontaneous sense of healing to inmates, calming them through this positive outlet.
One might apply the proverb, “Still waters run deep,” to describe Bending and her work. Although her pieces use imagery sparingly, the subjects intimate a wealth of profound meaning. When a person sails on the glistening ocean, the surface of the water is tranquil as the gaze is focused at the horizon, but this image changes when the boat dips below the calm surface. April Bending sails evocatively and knowingly across canvases for us, her art heralding larger themes about life that she understatedly allows to speak for themselves and consequently, in so many ways, she greatly enhances our world.