Walking through Eptek Art and Cultural Centre in Summerside, it’s easy to see what’s on Robert Milner’s mind.
The walls of the gallery are lined with paintings of aquatic environments.
Whether it’s the tranquil waves of Victoria harbour, the softness of jellyfish swimming in the blue water or the anticipation of storm clouds rising on a P.E.I. shoreline, one gets the feeling that Milner is attracted to water.
“Just being close to nature and spending a lot of time in Malpeque, where we are close to the water all the time, inspired me to do the show,” says Milner, who lives in Kensington.
But it’s not only the coastlines he’s focusing on in this exhibition. There are also the interior wetlands, which are essential for water purification, groundwater recharge and habitat for fish and wildlife and the wilderness.
“Supporting the wetlands is so important. Here on the Island, we have the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance, an organization that is doing good work,” says Milner, pointing to a collection of paintings on another wall.
Whether it’s “Silt in Stream” and “A Healthy Stream” — contrasting images that illustrate the importance of conservation and stream restoration — or “Fish Shelter”, a tiny bridge built over a stream to protect fish from the heat of the day, or a duck resting in a lily pond in “Wetland With Hooded Merganser”, there’s plenty for nature enthusiasts to absorb.
And, if you look past the surface of the paintings, the show has a message for gallery-goers.
“We all thrive because of water. And, unless we preserve it, we’re going to be in a lot of difficulty. And that’s true not only for humans, but for all the species.”
Milner also touches on environmental change in his works. For instance, “Too Much Water for Polar Bears” shows how a change in global surface temperatures affects wildlife.
“It’s about the destruction of habitat, but this time it’s because of global warming. There’s not enough ice left for them to maintain their normal habit of going out and hunting on the ice, so now they’re moving into territory on the land where they have to create a different way of eating – fending for themselves.”
On other walls, Milner’s love for the water returns, particularly noticeable in his paintings of the Flowerpot Rocks of Hopewell Cape and a gristmill in the English Cotswolds.
“In one you see water moving in and out in such a dramatic way (because of the Fundy tide that floods the area). And, in the other, you see water in a very simple way.”
Artist fast facts
- Who: Robert Milner
- Where: Spends his winters in Kensington and summers in Malpeque where he and his wife, Kathleen, operate the Little Red Barn Gallery.
- Shows: The artist has shown his work in hundreds of exhibitions. In 2015, he was part of the group exhibition, Celebration of 150 years of the Journal Pioneer. He showed his work, It's Time to Go a Fishing.
- Paintings: Milner's paintings hang in private collections in England, Holland, France, Scotland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand as well as in Canada and the United States.
Website: Go to http://www.artexperience.ca.