Ruby Ewan

Article written for The Low Down
September 6, 2006
published in Artists of the Gatineau Hills , 2007

Ruby Ewan, The Seed of Light

A moment can seed our lives and a flash of light illuminate the path ahead. Luskville artist, Ruby Ewen, was only four years old when such a defining experience claimed her.

“I was out on a Stanley Park beach with my father and sister. We came upon a gigantic tree stump and Dad explained how every ring represents a year in the life of a tree. The others walked on but I stayed behind to count the rings. I felt as if I were travelling back in time. When I reached the seed at the very centre, I was suddenly filled with light.

“ My whole life has been an attempt to be close to that light, to be filled with it. I strive to express it through colour and movement in my painting – to capture beauty, energy, the creative spirit – actually to talk about that light in paint.”

Deeply affected by nature and exposed early to the work of Canadian painters in the Vancouver Art Gallery, Ruby grew up drawing and painting. When the family moved east in 1957, they travelled on a CPR train decorated with murals of the Group of Seven.

“I was able to sit and watch the landscape moving by outside with the paintings inside. The two worlds meshed, outer and inner – both intensely alive.”

Very soon painting became Ruby’s passion. She began showing her work in 1967 while still studying Art History and Anthropology at St. Patrick’s College in Ottawa. She took small jobs to allow herself time to paint. “I always painted – it was my refuge and my necessity. I had been given a gift – to be able to be aware – awake to light. It is so easy to forget when life is hard.”

In her forties Ruby fulfilled a dream of living and painting on the land, moving through the Ottawa Valley in a horse-drawn caravan in 1989. For some years she had worked on farms, raising and training heavy horses – “I always wanted to be near energy bigger than me” – and painting at night. When travel proved unsustainable, she settled in a small house and studio in Luskville where she paints, teaches (giving back the light she seeks) and produces her impassioned political cartoons.

Ruby’s work is always changing and yet this constant renewal springs from the immediacy of her vision – that courage to speak who she is – a cri de coeur of absolute soul identification. As with the tree of childhood, she is forever travelling toward the centre of what she sees, that seed of light at the heart of being.

One of her recent shows reveals a land of glacial lakes and vertical peaks where tongues of colour touch down on the mountainside, firing and transforming the elements. “The Rockies were so big, tumbling into my field of vision and yet I felt as free as a child, saying ‘I see it. This is what I see!’” As viewers, we are cracked open by this sense of presence in each pulsing landscape. Stripped to quietude and awe, the paintings bring us home to ourselves.

This is why we are here.

“You realize when the most important thing touches you – it’s in you, you are part of it. Life may be a struggle but the light saves you. Your task is then to pay attention, to invite it in.”

Ruby Ewan Golden Glow Oil on Canvas

Ruby Ewan
Golden Glow
Oil on Canvas