KATHARINE BURNS IS A PAINTER WHOSE LARGE-SCALE, IMMERSIVE SEASCAPES ARE APT TO MAKE VIEWERS SMELL SALTY AIR, HEAR CRASHING WAVES, AND FEEL COOL DASHES OF OCEAN SPRAY WHILE STANDING AT THE WATER’S EDGE.
Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the rugged Atlantic coast is intimately familiar terrain for Katharine. Frequent excursions to the beach and beyond, in her sea kayak—drifting on the water, a regular witness to the sea’s various moods—provide her with an endless source of inspiration; and a singularly nuanced perspective on the infinite, immortal phenomenon that is the ocean.
Katharine’s work—generally composed of oil paint on canvas and measuring up to 10 feet long—concentrates on the water in different states: waves of all shapes and sizes, foaming surf, sun-flecked ripples beneath a luminous blue sky; usually without any other forms or identifying context, unlike the typical postcard seascape, which depicts the ocean and at least a hint of its surroundings (the beach or other landforms, for example). Her paintings focus tightly on the water—no landlubber’s distractions—and the perspectives are up close: in front of a tumultuous wave, floating upon the open sea before a vast horizon (as seen from a kayak maybe).
“What I try to capture is intimacy,” says Katharine, “and the qualities of the whole ocean environment that captivate us, sometimes unconsciously; or inspire awe in ways we can barely put into words. The sparkles created from sunlight on the water’s surface; the amazing force behind a wave; the little windows of translucency that flash within it for a split second just before it crashes to the shore.”