Mourning Light

by Holly Friesen

An exhibition of recent paintings by Holly Friesen
Les Mots Tremblant, Friday, Dec 16, 5 to 7 pm

The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you arrive there. ~Patti Smith

This exhibition is dedicated to Walt Pascoe, the love of my life, whose passing from the earth on the solstice of last year has been mourned in the sweetest light possible. The only way my heart could survive this loss was to paint my way through it. After having mourned his absence for a full year I find his presence in everything I see and touch.

I recently attended a month long artist residency program at the Vermont Studio Centre in Johnson, Vermont. This was a transformative experience. I was able to paint day and night in a gorgeous studio without interruptions or distractions. Meals were provided and the interaction with the 50 other attending writers and visual artists was inspiring and stimulating. The first thing I painted was “Good-Bye Kiss”. The reference photo I painted from was taken by a close photographer friend of mine who passed away three months after Walt. This painting allowed me to process a lot of sadness for the loss of both these dear souls. Once this painting was complete I felt released and lighter as though the studio had been blessed with a newfound radiance that was filled with love and gratitude.


holly friesen-good-bye kiss


To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver

I unrolled some large swaths of canvas from a roll that had belonged to Walt, stapled them to the wall and started to paint light filled landscapes of colour and joy. These paintings came bursting forth with a gratitude for life so large it was almost hard to contain it.


Unbound Joy / 84" X 70"

Unbound Joy / 84″ X 70″

Mysteries Too Marvellous to be Understood / 72" X 60"

Mysteries Too Marvellous to be Understood / 72″ X 60″


I intend to exhibit these pieces un-stretched and unframed, just as they were in the studio. I love the raw edges that seem to extend the painting into the room and allow their energy to spill out into the space around them. I want the viewer to experience the painting  as an expansive invitation to enter the painting with their own heart.




Next I felt as though I was between stories, a liminal space. A story of presence and absence co-existing in one space. A tension filled existence of opposites; movement and stillness, light and dark, colour and neutrality. A space full of potential yet oddly empty. It was at this time I came across a photograph by friend and colleague Melissa Johnston I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I rarely paint from another person’s imagery as I find “image gathering” to be very personal but this one just wouldn’t stop
calling out to me. I contacted Melissa and she very generously gave me permission to use her sublime photo as reference for a painting. “Liminal Space” is the resulting painting and I am grateful for Melissa’s vision that resonated with my own at that moment in time and space.


Liminal Space / 36" X 48"

Liminal Space / 36″ X 48″


Then came a more subdued palette as I started on a new series of paintings. These works were more modest in size and inspired by a series of photos and memories from a 5 a.m. September morning paddle on Pink Pond in the Adirondacks. As my photographer friend and I waited for the fog to lift we were rewarded with some of the most sublime glimpses  of landscape revealed at whim from behind a shifting veil of mist. This ambiguous vision of the the horizon appearing and disappearing was poetic and dreamlike.


Infinite Possibilities / 48" X 36"

Infinite Possibilities / 48″ X 36″

Pink Pond #1 / 12" X 12"

Pink Pond #1 / 12″ X 12″

Morning Offering / 12" X 12"

Morning Offering / 12″ X 12″

Pink Pond #4 / 12" X 12"

Pink Pond #4 / 12″ X 12″


The following paintings are several that I have selected from this past year of searching, exploring and reaffirming the interconnectedness of our inner and outer landscapes. The present moment seems to intersect with the past and the future and linear time dissolves into a web of moments.


The Present Moment Becomes Long Ago / 24" X 48"

The Present Moment Becomes Long Ago / 24″ X 48″

Dark Water Cove / 24" X 48"

Dark Water Cove / 24″ X 48″

Field Flow

Field Flow


My painting practice continues as a form of deep prayer which reconnects me to that which is vital in this life and beyond. Painting teaches me what I need to learn. Like breath, painting has become intuitive and essential to my own survival. I am humbled and awed by this invitation to participate in the Great Mystery through moments of numinous beauty that I am gifted with on a daily basis.


Un Peu Perdu dans les Nuages / 16" X 20"

Un Peu Perdu dans les Nuages / 16″ X 20″

When Warmth Fell from the Sky / 24" X 30"

When Warmth Fell from the Sky / 24″ X 30″

Landscape in Motion / 36" X 48"

Landscape in Motion / 36″ X 48″

Yellow Pool of Light / 36" X 48"

Yellow Pool of Light / 36″ X 48″



holly-friesen-bio-picArtist: Holly Friesen

Holly Friesen was born in Saskatchewan, studied Visual Arts at John Abbott College in Montreal and painting at York University in Toronto. After many years of travel and study she settled in Mont-Tremblant, QC and opened ArtBeat Studio where she painted and taught for 15 years. Four summer seasons saw Holly as artistic director and curator of The Art Barn in Mont-Tremblant. In 2010 she was curator and project manager of Ateliers du Village, an artist run gallery in Mont-Tremblant village.  From 2012-13 she worked as the Montreal curator for an online art auction ArtBomb. The artist’s studio is currently based out of Montreal QC where she also works as artistic director and curator of E.K. Voland Art Gallery. Her paintings are collected internationally and part of both corporate and private collections. Holly’s passion is painting vibrant landscapes from the inside out while collaborating with other artists to make art more visible in our everyday world.

Artist Statement:  My work revolves around earth-honoring images that reflect and instill connection to local bio-regions. These images internalize a reverence for the earth and shift the intent from harming the world to living in a mutually life enhancing manner. I learn what I need to know by painting. The more I paint the less separation there is between inner and outer worlds. For me, painting is like deep prayer awakening an inner wilderness that reflects the earth’s landscape; the image is in you and you are in the image. Painting is my breath, beauty my compass and the earth is my body.




Online Portfolio:


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4 Comments on “Mourning Light”

  1. December 9, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    A wonderful tribute Holly. I’m sure he appreciates it and i’m guessing he dropped in from time to time to warch it unfold.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. December 9, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks Carl, I appreciate you dropping by and reading the story. Hope to see you again soon!


  3. December 9, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Reblogged this on Holly Friesen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. December 21, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    what an epic and excellent journey – life to loss to living WITH and THROUGH the loss – I am sorry for your losses, I am happy for your finds

    Liked by 2 people

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