Marianne Enhorning mixes her love of nature and the human figure with subtle architectural elements to create dreamlike paintings that establish her place in her family’s artistic heritage

Marianne Enhorning dances around her new Comox Avenue studio/gallery, adding brush strokes to multiple paintings she’s working on simultaneously, sometimes measuring herself up against a life-sized canvas as if she’s trying to connect with the figure of a woman in motion, sensing the image’s next movements.

Enhorning is preparing for an important exhibition in San Diego, one that might result in an American tour of her recent work, a series exploring the beauty and strength of women.

She’s got a dozen new paintings on the go and divides her attention among them, moving gracefully around jars of brushes, paint cans, easels and paint-stained buckets.

The stereotypically messy studio area strikes a sharp contrast to her gallery, where a clean, simple design reveals Enhorning’s Swedish heritage. The gallery would not look out of place in an IKEA showroom.

But it’s no accident that Enhorning’s gallery is well organized and attractive. She has a degree in architecture and worked in that field for 25 years designing houses and small commercial buildings. She spent 10 years in private practice in Vancouver before moving to the Comox Valley, where she continued to do architectural design. She also worked  off and on for a few years with Comox architect John Chislett.

There’s a subtle architectural influence in much of Enhorning’s work that wouldn’t be obvious without knowing her background. Whether she’s painting women, dancers, landscapes or communities of people, they are often framed in vertical linear shapes — trunks of trees, lines of people, stems of flowers or herds of unicorns — and the human figures provide a sense of scale to the grandeur of nature.

“In architecture, I loved the design, and was always looking at the art aspect. The technical side is so unlike me. There are so many rules and bylaws and restrictions. And in the end, it’s not really your own work. You’ve been compromised by all the limitations,” She says.

By contrast, Enhorning says that painting is “completely free.”

“When I’m painting there’s no client, no budget, no rules. I can do anything. Nothing is right or wrong, and nobody can say it’s wrong,” she says.

George Le Masurier

DecafNation