Back to All Events

Gabrielle Villecourt & Yako De Arburn | Polymorph


– From the Greek word meaning ‘having multiple forms’


This collection of work represents over ten years of the selected works of artists Yako de Arburn and Gabrielle Villecourt from their shared studio in Cawston, BC.  On separate journeys Gabi and Yako arrived at the Similkameen Valley in the 70s.  Gabrielle settled in the area to raise a family and Yako left for many years but returned in the late 90s.

Guest curator Sarah Fahey first met and began painting in Yako’s studio in 1999. Gabrielle, upon a visit to the studio, was inspired to paint after many years of not creating and began painting with Yako regularly. Later Gabi started her own studio where, on Sunday afternoons, numerous artists, locals and seasonal workers gathered to paint, play music and share a day for the creative heart and spirit. It became known as the ‘Beautiful Sundays’. Sarah Fahey, who now lives in Penticton, continues to visit periodically and paint with them.

While Yako and Gabi maintain their own style and subject matter, they have influenced each other’s brushstroke and palette. Both artists work in oil but the valley’s inspiration transforms their work in very different ways. Yako pulls from his dreams, nightmares and imagination to create his pieces. The state of the planet is a main source of inspiration with water as a major theme. Gabi, who taught herself to paint by copying famous impressionist paintings, finds her inspiration from the surrounding landscape and approaches the canvas with spontaneity.

The artists have witnessed the process of each of these paintings that holds the memory and history of the year’s struggles or triumphs. Whether sadness or joy, frustration or anger, both artists operate from a deep emotional place expressing that which cannot be communicated with words.

Guest curator, Sarah Fahey writes, “ It is my pleasure to present these two artists and give voice to the numerous artists out there that paint from a place deep within their hearts.”

Gabrielle Villecourt was born in Montreal in 1952. She started drawing and painting when she was a teenager. She came to British Columbia in the fall of 1972 and,  like many young people,  pickedfruit in Cawston. She liked the valley so much, she stayed to work and raise a family.

Inspired by the surrounding landscape, Gabrielle approaches the canvas to experiment with colour, form and texture.  She has a deep connection to the landscape, particularly the skies that are observed daily, as they change from morning to evening and from season to season; they are always an important part of her paintings. For Gabi painting is most enjoyable when it takes her to a place where time stands still and she immerses in the moment of playing with the colours. Her favorite paintings came about as a total surprise. Sometimes Gabrielle works from a photograph but finds the trick is to let go of the image at some point and to let the colours take over.  Discovering the challenges and power of different colours is a part of her creation process. Each painting represents a moment or a day and paintings are put away for long periods of time to be discovered later and reworked or painted over.

This exhibition is a sample of Gabi’s work from 2002 to 2012 and represents the many styles she has experimented with and the progress she has made over the years.

Yako de Arburn was born in Montreal in 1961 and began painting at the age of 5. He movedto the west coast and for a few years, worked in the Similkameen Valley as a fruit picker but returned to Montreal in the early 80s to pursue a career in acting and to establish himself in the world of music. He has had an eclectic career in television, movies, theatre sports, improv, set and prop constructionas well as creating a band and working as the promotion agent for the Canadian and US tour of the opera Aida.  Throughout his journeys, ART has been Yako’s loudest voice.  Self-taught, his art attracted public attention after doing live painting sessions at Foufounes Electriques in Montreal and several exhibitions in different galleries followed. The call for the west coast was heard again and Yako moved to Vancouver and opened  a gallery on Commercial Drive. In1997, in need of a change from the city life he returned to the Similkameen where he is still living and painting today, and where he started The Beautiful Sundays with his dear friend Gabrielle Villecourt. 

Yako’s visual art practice is inspired by ecology, politics, spirituality, dreams and mythology. The precarious state of our planet is a major concern and the emotional impact of human experiences trigger a need to create, almost as a form of prayer, an image that reminds him that in the big picture, in other realms of realities, we are most definitely spirits sharing an experience. Water is a recurring element in many of Yako’s pieces. Water or the lack of water, being the emotional carrier of our primal senses can express many levels of fecundity and reflects well the emotional state of humanity. All life forms with whom we share the journey on this earth, are experimenting their own realities into which we only have an imaginary access.

Yako tries to expose the soul of his subjects through an instinctual and very personal vision, reflecting only his own reality. Based on the belief that we never really create anything but mostly draw from an infinite pool of memories; entities from other realms are also messengers in his work. Initiations and rituals through psychotropics such as peyote and other medicinal organisms have also contributed to opening new windows and have allowed the creative juices to explore the realms of the unseen, the presence of life in all of its infinite macrocosm and microcosm. When Yako stands in front of his easel and paints, he is often the first one surprised by the unseen guidance that leads each strokes to the final image. Yako feels he really is just a messenger.


Earlier Event: May 18
Val Eibner | Eye Spy a Meadowlark
Later Event: July 13
Ross Muirhead | Video-Still Series