By Ted Simpson –
Cube Gallery is showing the latest work from one of Ottawa’s most veteran, and surely one of the most talented artists, Russell Yuristy.
At the age of 79, Yuristy still works diligently from his home on Island Park Drive. His latest exhibit, a solo show at Cube, features a range of natural imagery that includes fish, animals, and most prominently, trees. One stunning portrait of a great oak is laid out over a towering seven-foot canvas.
A life-long creator, Yuristy has become his most prolific in these later years.
“I find that I’m doing much more work now that I’m older, I’m not out running around and causing trouble,” he says.
These days Yuristy finds his muse close to home, along the shores of the Ottawa River. The influence of Kitchissippi scenery can be seen in many of his paintings.
“I like to go down and walk by the river for an hour or two, that’s here I find a lot of my subjects,” says Yuristy. “Sometimes I’ll bring a large paper with me and do a live sketch, or other times I work from a photograph.”
Starting his career in his home province of Saskatchewan, Yuristy came to be known for his large sculptures of animals that were incorporated into children’s playgrounds. In 1974 he was commissioned by Expo Canada to build a wooden animal playground for Expo ‘74 in Spokane, Washington. Since then, his work has been installed all across the country, including a huge sculpture of a classic baseball player at the Ottawa Baseball Stadium titled Switch Hitter.
Yuristy’s fascination with trees seems to have started after he arrived in Ottawa in the mid 80s.
“When I was out in Saskatchewan, the trees are quite small there, then I came here and thought, wow, these trees are just amazing.”
He went to Montreal for five years, but ended up back in Ottawa again to be closer to nature. “It’s so easy to go a short distance and be at a river or in a forest, you can’t get that in other cities,” says Yuristy.
Going into his eighth decade, Yuristy’s creative spark and imagination still seem far from their end, though he did take the time to share a story of where it all might have began.
“When I was 10, I made a set of wings for myself out of cardboard. My dad said, ‘don’t you dare jump off the horse barn with those,’ so I jumped off the grain shed. I didn’t fly and the wings broke, but I kept going.”
Cube Gallery’s Don Monet has this to say of Yuristy: “Russell has a rare combination of giddy enthusiasm and profound gravitas. He loves nature, art and society in equal measures – and it shows in his work. We are honoured to be representing this local dynamo since we opened the Cube ten years ago. If you have not seen the work of Russell Yuristy, do yourself a favour and run, don’t walk, to our gallery this month. You will not be disappointed.”
Russell Yuristy’s solo exhibit is on display at Cube Gallery (1285 Wellington St W.), until October 4. For information about Cube Gallery go to cubegallery.ca.