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Aidan Parchelo | Fulcrum Contributor

ALMOST 50 PIECES of art adorn the walls of HeARTwood Gallery—photography, paintings, and mixed media alike—for Pieces of 8, an exhibition showcasing a selection of work produced by local artist Aimee Britten over the last five years.

While this is Britten’s first formal exhibit, she has been creating all her life.

“Man does produce some interesting things,” Britten says, “but not necessarily in the ways that we are used to looking at them.”

“I’ve done it forever,” she says. “When we emigrated from Belgium, one of the last things that my parents did was have some official photographs done of the family, and there I am with a paintbrush. That picture was taken when I was about four—so at four, I was drawing stick figures with fat heads.”

Despite a lifetime of creating art, Britten was quick to mention that she doesn’t consider herself an artist in the conventional sense; she has had to follow her own path to creation.

“I certainly didn’t go through the training and education process that people who are artists these days are going through,” she explains. “I didn’t go to art school, I didn’t take art classes—I just produce.”

For Britten, choosing between photography and painting typically depends on her source of inspiration. “Because I can’t make an appointment with nature—they don’t keep their appointments and don’t show up on time, and they don’t stay—typically I’ll have to produce some kind of art.”

Her photography tends to focus on human-made structures.

“Man does produce some interesting things,” she says, “but not necessarily in the ways that we are used to looking at them.”

Timing is everything when it comes to her photos; capturing a perfect picture is all about waiting for the right moment. Britten doesn’t use Photoshop or any sort of post-processing tools.

“What you see is what you get,” she says. “I prefer to work with the image and create a really good image that I can capture, and then I don’t have to sit there for hours and fiddle with it, and fine-tune it, and change it, and recompose the image. I try to have a great composition to begin with.”

Along with leaving images unaltered, novelty is central to each of Britten’s pieces. There is a surprise of some kind in all of her works—something embedded that is not normally seen. Britten adds that she often finds some of her inspiration out in the field and takes it back to her studio to expand on it.

On any given day, Britten will have up to 20 canvasses throughout her home, in various stages of completion. For her, art is more than just a job. “I want to produce things that people will enjoy having on their walls in their house, that are either calming or that are inspirational,” she says.

HeARTwood Gallery provides a free month-long exhibition space for artists, who are selected based on the quality of their work.

Seldom lacking inspiration, one of the greatest challenges Britten faces is finding enough places to showcase her art.

“There are very few walls in Ottawa with display space, so I’m thrilled to be at HeARTwood Gallery,” she says. “But you’re always [thinking], ‘Oh, there’s a wall…I wonder if I could hang something.’”

The showing has received a steady number of visitors throughout August, as evidenced by the many comments in her guestbook, ranging from short thank yous to lengthy, elaborate scrawls. Midway through the exhibition period, one of her larger paintings—featuring two mute swans—was purchased by Ottawa’s honorary keeper of the royal swans.

For this local artist, art is about looking beneath the surface and re-creating what she finds. “Life is as much about mystery as the obvious,” says Britten, “and I’d like to present the mysteries.”

Aimee Britten’s Pieces of 8 exhibit is at HeARTwood Gallery until Aug. 31. Proceeds from sales of her work will be donated to the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre and the Circle of Promise breast cancer awareness organization.


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