Birch Poems

There is a magnificent weeping birch in Teresa Posyniak's backyard. For over twenty-six years, it has filled the bay window of her kitchen - a steadfast companion and witness to her family's life. "It has grown with me and my family. My kids have climbed it. I have climbed it." As this beloved tree approaches the end of its life cycle, Posyniak's engagement with it has become more urgent and personal. Birch Poems represents the artist's emotional and wistful meditation on her tree. Each work is a detailed view of one aspect of the tree, the larger whole represented in one magnified part set against the vibrant blue of the sky. Seen up close, the tree bark reveals the traces of its life journey in black scratches, parallel striations and irregular marks on its smooth white skin. In their intimacy and verticality, these tree paintings seem more like portraits than landscapes. Posyniak does not show the tree in the context of a copse or as an element in a broader view. Nor does she depict the birch in its entirety. Instead, the tree fragment, cropped at the top and bottom, is seen in isolation, yearning in its upward reach. Each cylindrical form is massive and volumetric, creating an emphatic tactile presence, presented in beckoning proximity. There is no foreground to anchor the viewer's position. Instead, the vantage point seems to be from a point suspended between ground and sky. This spatial ambiguity contributes to a sense of dynamic tension that is enhanced by the diagonal trajectory of a single tree trunk, or by the overlapping intersection of two or more branches. Paradoxically, this movement and energy co-exist with an overriding sense of timeless, sun-bathed serenity.

Posyniak studies her subject intently and makes no preliminary drawings before marking the surface. When she is ready, her approach is spontaneous and bold as she first applies black ink in swift, confident and fluid strokes. Then she adds colour in oil and pastel to create solid forms, elusive cast shadows and high tonal contrasts. Her approach to the tree is very similar to the way in which she painted nudes and indeed she considers these works to be essentially figurative. Characteristically, the lyrical and evocative tree paintings, like her earlier nudes, suggest a more profound dimension that transcends surface beauty and materiality.

Monique Westra (M.A. Art History)
Independent Curator, Writer and Speaker
Art Curator, Glenbow Museum (2002-2010)